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Water Polo, Men

Date7 – 16 July 1912
LocationSimstadion, Djurgårdsbrunnsviken, Stockholm
Participants45 from 6 countries
FormatSingle-elimination tournament.

Water polo had been contested at the 1900, 1904, and 1908 Olympics. The 1904 Olympic water polo had been conducted under some unusual rules and only American club teams competed. The 1900 and 1908 Olympic water polo tournaments had both been won by teams from Great Britain. The 1900 British team had all been members of the same club, the Osborne Swimming Club of Manchester, while the 1908 team was more a “national” team, with members from four differing clubs.

In 1912, the matches consisted of two periods of seven minutes each, effective playing time. In the event of a tie, two extra periods of three minutes each were played. The tournament was basically played according to the “Bergvall System“, named after Erik Bergvall, President of Svenska Simförbundet (Swedish Swimming Association). In the Bergvall System, second place was not awarded to the losing finalist, but a separate second-place tournament was conducted among all teams losing to the winning team. Similarly, a third-place tournament was then conducted among all teams losing to the second-place team. In this case, Belgium defeated both Hungary and France in matches for third place. Sweden had already defeated Austria in a match for second place, so Belgium then advanced to a final match against Sweden to decide second and third place.

Great Britain was the favorite again in 1912 and did not disappoint, winning the gold medal. In their first round match, however, they were severely tested by the Belgian team, only winning in overtime by 7-5. In fact, Belgium led 3-2 at the half, and took a 4-2 lead early in the second half before Paul Radmilovic scored two goals to tie the match at 4-4 in regulation. In the semi-finals, Great Britain played Sweden. They led 2-1 at the half, but Sweden pulled even, 3-3, shortly after intermission. Britain scored the last three goals to win, 6-3. Having survived those two difficult matches, the final was easy for the British team. They defeated an overmatched Austrian team 8-0, scoring four goals in each half.

Four members of the winning 1908 British team returned to Stockholm in 1912 to defend the gold medal: George Wilkinson, Charles Smith, George Cornet, and Paul Radmilovic. Wilkinson, in fact, had also competed in 1900 for the Osborne Swimming Club team and thus had already won two water polo Olympic championships. Considered by many the first great water poloist, he started his career at the Osborne club before moving to the Hyde Seal Swim Club in 1902. He captained that water polo team for 22 years, and led them to nine Amateur Swimming Association titles, and an international victory over Brussels at the “World Championships” of 1904 in Paris.

Charles Smith represented the Salford Swimming Club, and won Olympic water polo gold medals in 1908, 1912, and 1920. He was goalie for the British national team from 1902 through 1926 and also competed at the Olympics of 1924. In winning his 1920 gold medal he was 41 years, 214 days old, making him the oldest Olympic water polo gold medalist. Less is known about George Cornet, a member of the Inverness Swimming Club, but he did represent Scotland 17 times in water polo between 1897 and 1912.

Paul (Pavao) Radmilovic had one of the longest Olympic careers of any Olympic water poloist. He competed in water polo at the Olympics of 1908, 1912, 1920, 1924, and 1928, one of only three Olympians to have competed in five water polo tournaments. But because of World War I, his span of 20 years competing in Olympic water polo is the longest on record, although equalled by Paul Vasseur of France, who competed in 1900, 1906, 1912, and 1920. Radmilovic also competed as a swimmer at the Olympics of 1906, 1908, and 1920, giving him six consecutive Olympic appearances between 1906 and 1928. He won four Olympic gold medals in all - water polo in 1908, 1912, and 1920 and as a member of the winning 4×200 metre freestyle relay in 1908. Welsh-born of a Croatian father and an Irish mother, in 1967 he became the first Briton to be inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame.

1Great BritainGBRGold
Isaac Bentham 1
Charles Bugbee
George Cornet
Arthur Hill 2
Paul Radmilovic 3
Charles Smith
George Wilkinson 4
CoachWally Brickett
Robert Andersson
Wille Andersson
Erik Bergqvist
Max Gumpel
Pontus Hanson
Harald Julin
Torsten Kumfeldt
Victor Boin
Félicien Courbet
Herman Donners
Albert Durant
Oscar Grégoire 5
Jean Hoffman
Herman Meyboom 6
Pierre Nijs
Joseph Pletincx
Hermann Buchfelder
Rudolf Buchfelder
Ernst Kovács
Richard Manuel
Walter Schachtitz
Otto Scheff 7
Josef Wagner
Sándor Ádám
László Beleznai
Tibor Fazekas
Jenő Hégner-Tóth
Károly Rémi
János Wenk
Imre Zachár
CoachBéla Komjádi
Paul Beulque
Henri Decoin 8
Gustave Prouvost 9
Georges Rigal
Jean Rodier
Jean Thorailler
Gaston Van Laere
Paul Vasseur

Round One

Date7 – 9 July 1912
Match #107 Jul 15:15Great BritainGBR7 – 5BelgiumBEL
Match #208 Jul 20:00SwedenSWE7 – 2FranceFRA
Match #309 Jul 13:35AustriaAUT4 – 3HungaryHUN


Date9 – 11 July 1912
Match #111 Jul 20:00Great BritainGBR6 – 3SwedenSWE
Match #2AustriaAUT

Final Round

Date13 July 1912
FormatMedal round.
Match 1/213 Jul 19:50Great BritainGBR8 – 0AustriaAUT

Second-Place Tournament

Date14 – 16 July 1912
Match #114 Jul 20:00SwedenSWE8 – 1AustriaAUT
Match 2/316 Jul 9:00SwedenSWE4 – 2BelgiumBEL

Third-Place Tournament

Date10 – 15 July 1912
Match #110 Jul 14:30BelgiumBEL6 – 5HungaryHUN
Match #211 Jul 11:30BelgiumBEL4 – 1FranceFRA
Match #315 Jul 13:00BelgiumBEL5 – 4AustriaAUT