Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Indoor Swimming Pool, Olympic Park, Seoul; Jamsil Indoor Swimming Pool, Seoul Sports Complex, Seoul
Date Started: September 21, 1988
Date Finished: October 1, 1988
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
Yugoslavia had won the gold medal in 1984, although it came down only to goal differential over the United States in the final round. Yugoslavia had also won the 1986 World Championship, but by 1988 the United States was at least their equal. The two teams had played eight times in the 2½ months before the Seoul Olympics, with the USA winning five times. The two teams met in group play in their opening match of the Olympics, with the United States winning 7-6. But Yugoslavia won the group, as the United States lost to Spain 9-7, and the Yugoslavs again had a better goal differential. Both teams advanced to the semi-finals, however, where they each won to meet again in the final.
Just as in Los Angeles, the United States led by 5-2 in the third quarter. Yugoslavia then scored four straight goals to lead 6-5, but the American tied the match 6-6. The match went to overtime and Yugoslavia scored the first three goals to lead 9-6, eventually winning 9-7 for the gold medal.
Hungary was eliminated in group play and would eventually place fifth in Seoul. Hungary had won medals in water polo at every Olympics from 1924-80, and then did not play in 1984 because of the Soviet-led boycott. Seoul marked the first time since Antwerp in 1920 that Hungary did not win a water polo medal at an Olympics in which they competed.