The 2015 Pan-Am Games in Toronto is set to open on Friday, July 10th, and will include some of the worlds best athletes from competing countries in the Americas. There is one competition that will get a head start to this two-week long event, when it kicks off on Tuesday, July 7th, at the Atos Markham Pan-Am Center. Water polo begins play with preliminary matches throughout the week and will look to attract fans who want to get an early jump on viewing the Pan-Am Games.
Last year, LWOS featured an article on the hidden gem that is water polo and covered the popularity of the sport in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, the sport isn’t very well known in the Americas, especially outside of the U.S. and Canada, but the Pan-Am Games will be a chance for the game to showcase itself.
Contrary to its name, water polo is not played on swimming horses but is more like a mix of handball and soccer, in the water. What makes this sport so unknown worldwide is the fact that roughly 90% of the action happens below the surface, naked to the average viewer. Players are kicked, grabbed and scratched, all while trying to maintain afloat with a ball in hand, trying to find a perfect pass or shot.
Water polo is one of the roughest team sports in the world, along with hockey, rugby and football. As an example, pushing someone underneath the water to cause a foul is a strategy of the game and is widely accepted as a means to slow the pace of the game down on a transition, in order for the players to get back in position.
Water polo is also a high scoring sport, twenty or more goals scored is not uncommon. When the six attacking players click in unity and pass the ball around and get off a shot within the 30 second shot clock limit, it is fairly easy to score a goal, considering how close the offence is set up to the goal- between the two and five meter marks. This is not to say that goalies aren’t good- water polo is one of the toughest sports to play goalie in, considering the size and speed at which the balls come at.
The host country of the Pan-Am Games, Canada, has both a men and womens team competing at the event and both have very good chances of winning a medal. The Americans will be their toughest opponent in both categories, but the Americans do have stronger women and mens teams, and are the favourites in both tournaments.
With the water polo games getting a head start compared to the rest of the disciplines, the aquatic sport will be in the spotlight for a few days. Unfortunately, the official broadcaster in Canada, CBC, has chosen to ignore the intense sport and broadcast the Calgary Stampede, instead. Fans looking to watch the women and men play will have to find alternate viewing solutions online. Just when our nation’s water polo players thought they could have played on TV, the animal that is played in actual polo has to steal the show!
Regardless, people in the Markham area should make their way down to the Aquatics Center to watch this sport that is elegantly played over the water but is war underneath it. When the semi-finals and finals roll around next and the games will likely be broadcasted on CBC or CBC.ca, it is highly recommended to take 30 minutes to just sit down and watch. The games aren’t long as the game consists of four quarters of eight minutes each.
For a few appreciative fans and the players, the beginning of the Pan-Am games has water polo written all over it. Canadian and Americans along with participants from other South American countries will compete for the next week in Markham and try to attract some fans towards the sport. Until then, water polo will be like that kid in movies that is quiet throughout but possesses insane strength and comes out as the hero in the end.