US women's water polo team wins historic third gold in third consecutive Olympics

Team United States form a huddle during the Women's Gold Medal match between Spain and the United States on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre on August 07, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
Team United States form a huddle during the Women's Gold Medal match between Spain and the United States on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre on August 07, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Celebrations for US women's water polo team after sealing third victory in three Olympics after defeating Spain 15-4 in the final at Tokyo 2020.

The United States women’s water polo team have shown once again that they are the best in the world with a third consecutive win at an Olympic Games after defeating Spain 15-4 at Tokyo 2020.

It was also a historic victory for Captain Margaret Steffens and centre forward Melissa Seidemann who become the first women to win three Olympic gold medals in water polo: they also won in Rio 2016 and London 2012, where they also beat Spain in the final.

"I have the chills right now," said Steffens after the match. "I don't think it's fully sunk in yet. I'm just proud of this moment. One thing we focused on through this whole tournament is just to enjoy the moment as much as possible and that's what I'm doing right now. I'm just really happy."

On the match, she added: "It wasn't just one player. It wasn't just two players. We had different people getting blocks, different people getting huge goals here, different people guarding and to see such a full team at the end of this makes me feel really proud to be part of it."

I don't think it's fully sunk in yet. I'm just proud of this moment. One thing we focused on through this whole tournament is just to enjoy the moment and that's what I'm doing right now. I'm really happy.

Steffens and Seidemann faced some of the Spanish players from 2012 in Tokyo: captain Pili Pena, Maica Garcia Godoy, Anna Espar Llaquet and Roser Tarrago Aymerich at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre. But the European champions, who have not defeated the US since the 2013 World Championship quarterfinals, could not upgrade their Olympic silver and claim the gold.

The Americans cheered and shouted after the final buzzer sounded. They had led from the start with Steffens landing the first goal and centre back Alys Williams added a second with a shot past goalkeeper Laura Ester Ramos. Spain valiantly fought back, and driver Tarrago Aymerich made it 2-1 but the US were soon on the attack and ended out the first quarter 4-1 after goals from drivers Madeline Musselman and Rachel Fattal.

The US opened the second quarter with two early goals. Spain struggled for much of the time to get past their opponents’ defence and goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, but managed to claw back two late goals thanks to centre forward Garcia Godoy and driver Bea Ortiz. The US retaliated and ended the first half 7-4. The Americans continued to attack throughout the second half and stretch their lead until the final score of 14-5.

Since 2014, the US has been the dominant force in women's water polo, winning all 13 major international tournaments in which they have competed, including the 2017 and 2019 world championships where they beat Spain in the finals.

But they faced an upset at Tokyo 2020 when Hungary beat them in the preliminary rounds 10-9. Undeterred, the team rallied to edge out the Russian Olympic Committee team 15-11 to set up a showdown with Spain in the final.

Spain moved into the final following an 8-6 win over Hungary. The team played the ROC in the bronze-medal match. It was a tough battle which Hungary eventually won with a last second goal in the fourth-quarter to finish 11-9.