The United States crushed Spain 14-5 on Saturday to win their third straight Olympic gold medal in women’s water polo, confirming their status as the world’s dominant team.
Spain settled for silver and Hungary took bronze with a gritty 11-9 win over the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team.
The U.S., champions at London 2012 and Rio 2016, completed their “threepeat” with characteristic ruthlessness, blowing away the Spanish team, the European champions.
Coach Adam Krikorian and his assistants dived into the pool with the players in scenes of joy and wild celebration after the U.S. closed out the win at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre.
“No matter how much success they have, they’re unwavering in their approach,” Krikorian told reporters.
“We’ve talked a lot about the fine line between confidence and complacency but we’ve just done a fantastic job of staying focused through this process.”
The U.S. are the first women’s water polo team to win three successive Olympic gold medals, a feat only achieved by the British and Hungarian men’s teams before.
Madeline Musselman scored three goals in the final, while captain Maggie Steffens got one, extending her record as the all-time leading scorer at the Olympics to 56 goals.
The champions were as impressive at the other end of the pool, with their on-point zonal defense effectively killing off the Spanish threat and goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson saving 12 of the 17 shots she faced.
The clash with Spain was a repeat of the London 2012 final, and the result was never in doubt after the U.S. raced into a commanding 7-4 lead at halftime, which they extended to 12-4 by the end of the third quarter.
The victory capped an extended period of dominance for the U.S. women in the pool. The world champions have now won all 14 major tournaments in which they have competed since 2014.
The Hungarians, who had never finished on the women’s water polo podium, won their first Olympic medal in style, with goalkeeper Alda Magyari scoring into an empty net with four seconds left as all the ROC players pushed up into attack.
Magyari, who also made 10 saves, was one of eight Hungarian players who found the net, with wing Vanda Valyi top scoring with three goals.
“It’s a huge step in our history,” Hungary captain Rita Keszthelyi told reporters. “I’m sure everyone is very, very proud of us and happy that we achieved this.
“My mother was one of the first women who started to play water polo in Hungary, and my father was a national team player. I always chased this medal also for him.”
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