Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Water Polo Arena, Olympic Park, Stratford, London
Date Started: July 30, 2012
Date Finished: August 9, 2012
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
Unusually the women’s tournament lacked the presence of both the world champions and the Olympic champions. Greece had won the 2011 world title but the champions were not guaranteed an Olympic title and so they to make their way to the Games through the official Olympic qualifying tournament. A shock defeat to Spain in the quarter-final meant they would be kicking their heels at home at the time of the London Games. The Dutch team, who had won gold in Beijing, suffered an identical fate at the hands of an Italian team who had been their predecessors as Olympic champions.
Because of the format of the competition the group stage was only useful in determining the draw for the quarter-finals. Spain proved their performance in the qualifying tournament was no flash in the pan by winning their group in London whilst the other group was won by an impressive Australia team. Australia faltered in the knockout stages and, after surviving a shootout against China, fell in the semi-final to the USA. In contrast Spain continued on their winning ways and dispatched Great Britain and Hungary on their route to a rematch of 9-9 tie they had with the Americans in the group stage.
Mid-way through the second quarter of the final, with the scores tie at 2-2, Jessica Steffens set up a goal scoring chance for little sister Maggie Steffens which she duly converted. The younger Steffens blazed a trail of destruction on the Spaniards for the rest of the final and finished by scoring 5 of the American team’s goals in an 8-5 victory to ensure a first Olympic title for the US women.
The USA had been amongst the favourites at each Olympics since the introduction of women’s water polo in 2000 but had been losing finalists in both 2000 and 2004 and bronze medallists in 2008.
America had won 3 of the last 5 but ironically their first Olympic came immediately after a sixth place finish at the 2011 World Championships – their worst performance in over a decade. The bronze medal was won by Australia with an overtime victory over Hungary.