Water Polo

Facts

Discipline of Aquatics
Participants 2771
NOCs 52
Competitions held 34 (Venues)
Distinct events 2

Description

Water polo was developed in Europe and the United States as two separate sports. In the United States, it was termed softball water polo, as the ball was an unfilled bladder, and the sport was very rough, often degenerating into numerous fights. In 1897, Harold Reeder, of New York, formulated the first rules for that sport, which were intended to decrease the excessive roughness of the game. The European style of water polo predominated, and today is the form of the game practiced universally. It is more scientific, faster, and less dangerous than the American game.

Water polo was played at the Olympics of both 1900 and 1904. It was not on the 1906 Olympic Program, but has been contested at all Games since.

Great Britain won four of the first five Olympic tournaments, but by far the greatest exponents of water polo have been the Hungarians. Between 1928 and 1980, Hungary never failed to medal in the sport at the Olympics, and the country has won 17 Olympic medals in total, including nine golds. Ten male players have won three Olympic water polo titles: two British and eight Hungarian players. Among them is Dezső Gyarmati, who additionally won a silver and a bronze medal.

Women’s World Championships have been held in water polo since 1986, with women competing in water polo at the 2000 Olympic Games for the first time. Two USA players, Heather Petri and Brenda Villa, have won four Olympic medals, each with one gold. Also from the USA, Melissa Seidemann and Maggie Steffens lead the gold medal count, both with three golds.

Water polo is governed the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), which was formed on 19 July 1908 in London, at the end of the Olympics, with eight founding members: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, and Sweden. FINA not only governs water, but also swimming, diving, high diving, marathon (open water) swimming, and artistic (synchronized) swimming. As of 2022, FINA has 209 member associations.

All-time medal table

Olympic Games

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Hungary HUN 9 3 5 17
United States USA 4 6 5 15
Italy ITA 4 3 3 10
Great Britain GBR 4 0 0 4
Yugoslavia YUG 3 4 0 7
Soviet Union URS 2 2 3 7
Serbia SRB 2 0 2 4
Spain ESP 1 3 0 4
Croatia CRO 1 2 0 3
Germany GER 1 2 0 3
France FRA 1 0 3 4
Australia AUS 1 0 2 3
Netherlands NED 1 0 2 3
Belgium BEL 0 4 2 6
Greece GRE 0 2 0 2
Russian Federation RUS 0 1 3 4
Sweden SWE 0 1 2 3
Serbia and Montenegro SCG 0 1 1 2
Unified Team EUN 0 0 1 1
West Germany FRG 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Olympic Games

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Dezső Gyarmati HUN 3 1 1 5
György Kárpáti HUN 3 0 1 4
Paul Radmilovic GBR 3 0 0 3
Charles Smith GBR 3 0 0 3
Tibor Benedek HUN 3 0 0 3
Tamás Kásás HUN 3 0 0 3
Péter Biros HUN 3 0 0 3
Gergő Kiss HUN 3 0 0 3
Tamás Molnár HUN 3 0 0 3
Zoltán Szécsi HUN 3 0 0 3
Melissa Seidemann USA 3 0 0 3
Maggie Steffens USA 3 0 0 3

Event types

Name Gender Still contested? Times held?
Water Polo Men 28
Water Polo Women 7