Host City: Sydney, Australia
Venue(s): Ryde Aquatic Leisure Centre, Ryde, New South Wales; Sydney International Aquatic Centre, Olympic Park, Sydney, New South Wales
Date Started: September 23, 2000
Date Finished: October 1, 2000
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
|Bronze:||Serbia and Montenegro|
The 2007 World Championship had come down to a Croatia-Hungary final, with Croatia prevailing, 9-8. In 2005 Hungary had also lost the final of the World Championship to another remnant of Yugoslavia, this time Serbia & Montenegro. Since World War II, Hungary and Yugoslavia had been the top water polo powers in the world, with Hungary winning Olympic medals at 12 straight Olympics from 1928-80. But the Soviet-led boycott of 1984 had knocked them from their perch and Hungary had not won an Olympic medal since 1980.
That changed in Sydney, although they lost two matches in group play. But they qualified for the quarter-finals where they easily defeated Italy, 8-5, moving onto a match against their arch-rivals, Serbia & Montenegro, or what was remaining of Yugoslavia. Both semi-finals were close, Hungary winning 8-7, and Russia eliminating Spain by the same score. The final would come down to Hungary and Russia, best known for their historic 1956 match, which ended in a bloody brawl shortly after the Soviet Union had invaded Hungary. That match had ended in a 4-0 Hungarian victory but the 2000 final was not even that close. Hungary was well ahead after each period – 3-1, 8-2, 10-4 – finally winning 13-6 for their first Olympic water polo gold medal since 1976 in Montréal.
Defending Olympic champion Spain lost the bronze medal match to Serbia & Montenegro, 8-3. That was the final Olympic appearance for their star, Manuel Estiarte, competing in his sixth Olympics. Usually considered, along with Hungarian Dezső Gyarmati, as one of the two greatest water poloists ever, Estiarte had led the Olympic tournament scoring in 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992, and finished his Olympic career with 126 goals in 45 matches.