The World of Water Polo: How Much Do You Know?

Swimming World January 2020 - 2019 Top Athletes of the Year - Ashleigh Johnson - USA Water Polo - By Mariana Bazo

The World of Water Polo: How Much Do You Know?

By Gigi Picard Swimming World College Intern 

An official blows sharply on a whistle and 12 anxious players, six per team, dash wildly toward the middle of the pool. Two of the 12 sprint for a bright yellow polo ball plopped between the racing teams because whoever gets there first gets first possession. Meanwhile, one goalie per team stays behind to defend the net. 

This is the dramatic start of a typical competitive water polo game. From that first swimoff to the end of the game, the action intensifies, as players do their best to fill the opponent’s net with goals from an assortment of wicked shots. 

As a full-time swimmer, I confess I didn’t know much about water polo until I saw my first game. From that moment, I was hooked and determined to educate myself about this engaging, aggressive, entertaining sport. Turns out water polo has an extremely rich history. 

How much do you know ahead of the Tokyo Games? Test your knowledge below: 

1. Where and when did water polo originate?

a. Scotland 19th century

b. United States 20th century

c. England mid-19th century

d. Hungary mid-19th century

2. What was water polo originally called?

a. Football-in-the-water

b. Rugby-in-the-water

c. It’s always been called water polo

d. River dribble ball

3. True or false: Water polo was the second team sport ever added to the Olympic Games. 

a. True

b. False

4. Which country has won the most Olympic gold medals in men’s water polo?

a. Australia with five medals

b. United States with five medals

c. England with four medals

d. Hungary with nine medals

5. Which countries are the best at men’s and women’s water polo right now?

a. Serbia men and United States women

b. United States men and Australia women

c. Both England’s men’s and women’s teams

d. Italy men and Netherlands’ women

e. Both Hungary’s men’s and women’s teams

6. Which country has won the most Olympic gold medals in women’s water polo?

a. The United States with two medals

b. Australia with three medals

c. Italy with three medals

d. Netherlands with two medal

7. When did men’s water polo become an Olympic sport?

a. England 1908

b. France 1900

c. Sweden 1912

d. United States 1904

8. When did women’s water polo become an Olympic sport?

a. Atlanta 1996

b. Beijing 2008

c. Athens 2004

d. Sydney 2000

9. Which of these does not fit?

a. Brenda Villa, Olympic gold medalist

b. Simone Biles, Olympic gold medalist

c. Sean Paul, Grammy award-winning singer

d. Maggie Steffens, Olympic gold medalist

e. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge

10. Which land sport is water polo based on?

a. Rugby

b. Football (soccer)

c. Basketball

d. Polo

11. Who were the first Black men to make the U.S. Olympic water polo team?

a. Ted Minnis and Omar Amr

b. Omar Amr and Genai Kerr

c. Jerry Moss and Genai Kerr

d. Ted Minnis and Jerry Moss

12. Who was the first Black woman to make the U.S. Olympic water polo team?

a. Lia Neal

b. Carla Gilmore

c. Ashleigh Johnson

d. Simone Manuel

13. What is the difference between men’s and women’s water polo?

a. Women play two halves and men play four quarters

b. The boundaries in the pool are set differently 

c. The women play with a smaller ball (size 4 compared to a size 5)

d. Each period the men play 8:00 minutes and the women play 7:00 minutes

14. What were the original water polo balls made of?

a. Pig stomach

b. Rubber 

c. Leather 

d. Nylon 

15. Who can touch the bottom of the pool in polo?

a. All of the players

b. The goalie

c. None of the players

d. The coaches

e. The officials

16. What are nail checks?

a. To make sure each goal is secure and not loose

b. When officials make sure the stands are secure for wild fans

c. Taking 5-10 minutes to call or confirm a nail appointment

d. Checking players’ fingernails and toenails to make sure they aren’t sharp

17. True or false: Brenda Villa played on an all boys water polo team in high school because there was no girls team. 

a. False

b. True

18. Which polo legend modeled for sculptor Robert Graham to be the bronze male torso at the Los Angeles Olympic Games?

a. Craig Wilson

b. Jody Campbell

c. Terry Shroeder

d. Joe Vargas

19. Which of these doesn’t fit?

a. Bunny hook

b. Dribbling

c. Dead time

d. Lob shot 

20. Which one of these is not a type of foul in polo?

a. Exclusion

b. Penalty

c. Ordinary

d. Disqualification 

21. Which company made the first protective headgear and when?

a. GH Sports in 1966

b. Turbo in 1970

c. Speedo in 1967

d. Sporti in 1969

22. Swimming and water polo are obviously way different. Which of these is not a difference between swimming and water polo?

a. Polo has a :30 shot clock 

b. You don’t wear caps in water polo 

c. There are swim offs at the beginning of each period

d. No goggles in water polo 

Bonus Question:  Fill in the blank: Marco __

Let’s see how you did:


  1. c   6. a   11. b   16. b   21. a
  2. a   7. b   12. c   17. b   22. b
  3. b   8. d   13. c   18. c  Bonus: Polo
  4. d   9. b   14. a   19. a
  5. a   10. a   15. b  20. d

So how many did you get right?


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