With players swimming up to 1500m in a match, water polo is a highly physical team sport in which the players of each squad try to score as many goals against the opposition as they can.
Each team consists of seven players (one of whom is the goalkeeper), and six substitutes (one of whom may be a second goalkeeper). None of the players may touch the bottom of the pool. It is also forbidden for players to hold on to the ball with both hands or to strike it with the fist, except in the case of the goalkeeper.
Water polo was developed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, with American and European versions of the game evolving independently. The European version had its roots in rugby, football (soccer) and classic polo.
Water polo – using predominantly European rules - made its debut as an Olympic sport at Paris 1900. Despite a one-year hiatus in 1904, the sport has stayed on the roster of aquatic sports ever since. Until recently, it was a men’s-only event, but a women’s water polo tournament joined the schedule for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
In the early years, Team GB dominated the water polo medal table, with four gold medals in a row between 1900 and 1920.