Host City: Barcelona, Spain
Venue(s): Bernat Picornell Pools, Barcelona; Montjuïc Municipal Pool, Barcelona
Date Started: August 1, 1992
Date Finished: August 9, 1992
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
Yugoslavia was the world’s top side. They had won the gold medal in 1984, and won the World and European Championships in 1991, defeating Spain in the final of both of those tournaments. The tournament was expected to come down to those two teams. But shortly before the Barcelona Olympics, the United Nations had sanctioned Yugoslavia for its actions in the Bosnian and Croatian war, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed to ban the nation from the Olympics. It provided an out, however, by allowing individual Yugoslav athletes to competed as Independent Olympic Participants (IOP), but teams from Yugoslavia could not compete, and thus their water polo team was not in Barcelona.
The United States and the Unified Team advanced to the semi-finals from Group A, while Spain and Italy advanced from Group B. In the semis, Italy defeated the Unified Team 9-8, while Spain defeated the United States 6-4. Italy and Spain had already met in pool play, tying 9-9.
The final became the longest water polo match in Olympic history. It was tied at the end of regulation, 7-7, and remained that way through two overtime periods. In the second overtime, Spanish superstar, Manuel Estiarte scored on a penalty throw with only 42 seconds remaining, appearing to give Spain the gold medal. But with 33 seconds to go, Jordi Sans was sent off and Italy’s Massimiliano Ferretti scored the equalizer. Three more overtimes were played, with no score. In the sixth overtime, Italy’s [Fernando Gandolfi] scored with 32 seconds on the clock, to put Italy ahead, 9-8. A last second Spanish shot failed and Italy won the gold medal.