By Eric Velazquez. USA Water Polo
The success of any movement is measured in small triumphs…events whose importance cannot be fully realized until the movement has reached, or is
nearing, completion. One can find such progress in many walks of life. Even sports. Particularly in women's athletics, where water polo has finally arrived on the scene as a spectator sport. And the U.S. is hanging its hat.
The first modern Olympics in 1896 was exclusively a track and field showcase. But with the rise of team sports across the globe, their inclusion in the next summer games was inevitable, and in 1900 men's water polo and soccer were among the first team sports to grace the Olympic roster.
The 1900 Olympics also broke ground by including women's sports for the first time. However, women's team sports would be slow to make their debut.
It wasn't until 1956 that women were treated to the thrill of competing for Olympic gold in the team category. Volleyball was the first medal sport to
be thrust onto the scene that year, with Japan finishing in the top spot.
Now, a mind-boggling 100 years after the incorporation of men's water polo as one of the first team sports at the Olympics, and 44 years after the introduction of women's team sports, there emerges yet another landmark in the timeline of women's athletics.
The 2000 Olympics will be the first to include women's water polo as a medal sport. Six teams will splash into history this summer-Kazakhstan, Russia, Canada, Holland, Australia, and the United States. But when the waters have settled, only one team will have emerged from the melee adorned in gold, and Team USA has its eyes on the prize.
In 1996, U.S. women's soccer surged into the international spotlight by taking the gold in Atlanta, stirring up a hysteria of sorts for stars and stripers everywhere. This year's women's water polo team is hoping to create some noise of its own…and they have all the tools to do it.
With young guns like Coralie Simmons, Ericka Lorenz, Heather Moody, and Brenda Villa to go along with seasoned veterans like Julie Swail, Gubba Sheehy, and Maureen O'Toole the U.S. is definitely ready to raise some eyebrows in Sydney…and coach Guy Baker, a proven winner at the collegiate level, is charged with the task of guiding the team through the bracket.
After its emotional victory over Hungary in April to secure a place in this year's Olympics, the U.S. women's water polo team had its work cut out. Now
that the team had earned its shot at Olympic gold, could it earn its keep with the likes of Australia and Holland? Even Canada had asserted its right
to be included in the gold medal rumor mill. Where would the U.S. fit in?
The biggest test would come in early July, when Team USA played host to the entire Olympic field in the Holiday Cup. The six-team, six-day tournament, which drew record crowds all week long, culminated in a 5-4 U.S. win over Canada in the gold medal game on July 9. Not only had the U.S. walked away with the tourney crown, they had done it in grand fashion, going undefeated on the week against all five teams that it would meet in Sydney.Nicolle Payne was named as the tournament's Most Outstanding Goalkeeper,
while teammate Coralie Simmons was recognized as the Most Valuable Offensive Player.A huge stepping-stone for the U.S. team, and a precursor of things to come.
A total of 13 players will take to the tank for Team USA come September 15 in Sydney. And "Baker's Dozen" is prepped and ready for delivery to the winner's podium. USA women's water polo…a team to watch and a fever to be caught.