skip to content
Water Polo


Water polo developed into different forms in the United States and Europe. The European game is now universally accepted.

Tough beginnings

Water polo is a tough sport, but when it first began it was even tougher. Fighting between players was common, if not the norm. In 1897, New Yorker Harold Reeder formulated the first American rules for discipline, which were aimed at curbing the sport’s more violent tendencies.

Naming the game

In the early days, the players rode on floating barrels that resembled mock horses, and swung at the ball with mallet-like sticks. This made it similar to equestrian polo, hence its name. In the United States it was termed softball water polo due to the use of an unfilled bladder as a ball.

Current sport

Water polo was developed in Europe and the United States as two differing sports. Ultimately, the faster, less dangerous European style predominated, and today this is the form of the game practised universally. It consists of seven-man teams playing four eight-minute periods.

Olympic history

Water polo made its Olympic debut at the Paris Games in 1900. It was not included in 1904 but would be present at each subsequent edition of the Olympic Games.
Since then, the Hungarians have been by far the greatest ambassadors of this discipline. Between 1928 and 1980, they won medals at every Games. Between 1932 and 1976, they even won six of the 10 gold medals available.

In 2000 in Sydney, Hungary make a remarkable comeback, winning its seventh gold medal in water polo. In the same year, women’s water polo made its first official appearance at the Olympic Games, 100 years after the debut of this discipline.

More
More


Gallery

Men's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group B
Image Alt Text

Men's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group B

Ricard Alarcon Tevar of Spain challenges Filip Klikovac of Montenegro during the mens Waterpolo group match between Spain and Montenegro at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Men's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group B
Image Alt Text

Men's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group B

Tony Azevedo #8 of United States pressures Mehdi Marzouki #9 of France during Men's Preliminary Round - Group B, Match 18 at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Men's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group A
Image Alt Text

Men's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group A

Emmanouil Mylonakis #2 of Greece passes the ball against Denes Varga #10 of Hungary and Krisztian Manhercz #3 of Hungary during Men's Preliminary Round - Group A, Match 14 Greece vs Hungary at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Women's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group B
Image Alt Text

Women's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group B

Laura Lopez Ventosa of Spain passes during the Preliminary Round, Group B Womens Waterpolo match between Spain and the United States on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Women's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group B
Image Alt Text

Women's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group B

Dora Antal of Hungary battles with Huanhuan Ma of People's Republic of China during the Water Polo Preliminary Round Group B match between People's Republic of China and Hungary on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Getty Images
Men's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group A
Image Alt Text

Men's Waterpolo - Preliminary Round - Group A

Angelos Vlachopoulos of Greece passes the ball infront of Stefan Mitrovic of Serbia during the Men's Prelimimary Round Group A match between Serbia and Greece on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Getty Images
More

back to top Fr