History Of Water Polo
The history of water polo as a competitive sport dates well back into the mid-to-late 19th century. And as you might guess, the development of water polo grew out of a desire to make swimming more exciting and more interesting. It seems there were just so many exhibitions that fans were willing to support. So the organizers of the London Swimming Club put their heads together and established a set of rule, according to Yiannis Giannouris, water polo coach from Greece and author of "Water Polo History." Here's a primer of some of the key milestones from that auspicious beginning to today:
At the beginning. Organizers desired a game that was essentially a form of rugby played in rivers and lakes and other outdoor bodies of water. It initially involved a ball made of Indian rubber, which helps explains why the game is today called water polo and not water rugby. The ball was called a pulu, a Baltic word, but the English pronunciation was a bit different. Later the game incorporated a soccer-sized ball.
Jumping the pond. Water polo was introduced in the United States in the late 1880's. It caught on quickly and attracted large crowds in large venues such as Madison Square Garden in New York or Mechanics Hall in Boston, according to "The History of Men's Water Polo."
Going mainstream. The game spread across Europe but the divide with the United States was wide. The United States played a rougher, more football-like version of the game while the Europeans emphasized skill. As a result, water polo was only competed by U.S. teams in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis.Water polo was first competed at the Olympics. Water polo was first included in the Olympics in Paris in 1900, according to Giannouris. Women's play began in 1906 in Holland.
Power teams. The center of power in water polo is in Europe. Other than European nations, only the United States has ever won medals in water polo at the Olympics, and never a gold. Since 1973, according to Giannouris, the Water Polo World Championships has been competed with the World Swimming Championship. The organizing body is FINA, which has also organized a pro water polo league.