Host City: Antwerpen, Belgium
Venue(s): Antwerp Swimming Stadium, Antwerpen
Date Started: August 22, 1920
Date Finished: August 29, 1920
Format: Single-elimination tournament. Modified Bergvall system for second- and third-place.
In water polo, Belgium narrowly defeated The Netherlands and Sweden in getting to the final, while Great Britain made their way laughingly to the finals. Still, the nationalistic Belgian fans expected a hometown victory. The match was closely contested, with Britain eventually winning 3-2. Britain scored first, with Bill Dean recording the opening goal. But Belgium then took a 2-1 lead on two goals by Maurice Blitz. Britain tied the score at the half with another goal by Dean. In the second half, Paul Radmilovic of Britain scored the only goal, which proved to be the winning margin. The Belgian fans were quite unhappy and attempted to attack the British players, who were led away under an armed guard.
This made the third consecutive gold medal for Great Britain in water polo, having also won the title in 1908 and 1912. They had also won the Olympic championship in 1900 at Paris. Two British players earned three gold medals from 1908-1920 - Charles Smith and Paul Radmilovic, while a third, Charles Bugbee, had played for Great Britain in both 1912 and 1920. Smith represented Salford Swim Club in 1908, but Southport Swim Club in 1912 and 1920. He was England’s goalkeeper in water polo for 25 years and also competed at the 1924 Olympics, in which Great Britain lost in the first round to Hungary. Bugbee was a City of London policeman who also competed in 1924.
In addition to his three water polo gold medals, Paul Radmilovic also swam on the British 4 x 200 freestyle relay team that won gold in 1908. Radmilovic competed in Olympic water polo again in 1924 and 1928. An excellent swimmer, he won his first national swimming title in 1901 and the last in 1929 and he won championships at distances from 100 yards to 5 miles. In 1967 he was the first Briton to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.