The U.S. women and Serbian men’s water polo teams came to the Rio Games as the undisputed favorites to take home the gold, and in the end both teams proved why.
The American women outscored their opponents by 41 goals in the six games they ran through, trailing for a total of 44 seconds in the entire games.
The win was especially special for U.S. head coach Adam Krikorian, who lost his brother just two days before the Opening Ceremonies. Krikorian flew to California and returned the day before the women began play. In the end, his team hung all of their gold medals around Krikorian’s neck as a sign appreciation for their strong leader.
Serbia wasn’t quite as dominant throughout, starting the Games 0-1-2 and on the verge of missing the quarterfinals. But the Serbians proved it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. They won their last five games by an average of seven goals on their way to the first gold medal in the nation’s history.
Serbia’s lone loss came to Brazil, who looked to be a Cinderella story in the making, starting the game on their home soil 3-0, delighting fans throughout the city. Brazil struggled the rest of the way, losing their final five games, but still proved that water polo could have a place, and definitely a fan base, in the country afterall.
Some other important moments from the Rio water polo pool can be seen here.
Four years after winning their first men’s water polo gold medal as an independent nation, Croatia was unable to continue their reign.
Serbia, led by Dusan Mandic’s four goals and 12 saves by goalkeeper Branislav Mitrovic, took gold with an 11-7 victory in the gold medal match. For Serbia this is their first Olympic gold medal in men’s water polo as an independent nation, giving the nation a total of two Olympic gold medals in its history.
WATCH: Serbia defeats Croatia for Olympic gold
Serbia has now won a medal in each of the last four Olympics, taking silver in 2004 (as Serbia and Montenegro) and bronze in both 2008 and 2012.
After a Damir Buric goal trimmed Serbia’s lead to 6-4 early in the third quarter, Filip Filipovic scored two unanswered goals to extend their lead back out to four. Serbia’s lead from that point forward would be no less than three goals, with Mandic scoring his fourth goal with 3:29 remaining to give them an 11-6 lead. A goal scored by Croatia’s Javier Garcia Gadea with 2:06 remaining provided the final score.
WATCH: The best moments of the Olympic water polo competition
Italy took bronze with a 12-10 win over Montenegro, with the Italians now having won a medal in each of the last two Olympics (silver in 2012).
Croatia is one win away from repeating as Olympic champion in men’s water polo. But to accomplish that feat they’ll have to beat Serbia in what should be an entertaining gold medal match.
WATCH LIVE: Men’s water polo gold medal match, Croatia vs. Serbia — 4:50 p.m. Eastern
This is a rematch of last year’s gold medal match at the World Aquatic Championships, a match Serbia won by the final score of 11-4. Croatia scored the first two goals in that match, only to have Serbia storm back with a dominant second-half showing. Croatia’s won each of their bracket play matches by four-goal margins, with Serbia winning theirs by three and two goals, respectively.
Two players to watch are Croatia’s Andro Buslje and Serbia’s Andrija Prlainovic, with Buslje scoring four goals in a semifinal win over Montenegro and Prlainovic scoring two goals in Serbia’s win over Italy.