WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 12, 2012
Croatia won its first gold medal of the 2012 London Olympics on the final day.
Legendary water polo coach Ratko Rudic guided Croatia to an 8-6 upset victory over Italy Sunday in front of a packed crowd at the Water Polo Arena.
For Rudic, it was his fourth Olympic gold medal as a coach after taking silver at the 1980 Olympics as a player. Rudic coached Yugoslavia to gold in 1984 and 1988 and Italy in 1992 and now his native Croatia.
Croatia was the only undefeated team in the tournament.
“The gold medal is the reward for our high level of play,” Rudic said. “We had eight wins out of eight matches. I can’t remember any Olympic tournament where the winner was so dominant. This is a result of hard work by a team who spend days and nights analyzing the opponents with great enthusiasm.”
Maro Jokovic scored three goals to give Croatia a 3-2 halftime lead. Croatia continued to add to its lead, 5-3, and Jokovic scored two more in the fourth period for a 7-3 lead.
Croatian goalkeeper Josip Pavic was named the most valuable player of the tournament. Teammate Niksa Dobud was also selected to the all-star team.
Both teams scored four goals on man-up situations with Croatia having seven attempts and Italy, 10.
Said Croatian player Miho Boskovic, “Amazing. It’s the best feeling ever. We will celebrate very hard.”
Croatia had already beaten Italy, 11-6, in round play and had that confidence going into the gold medal game.
Croatia’s Sandro Sukno made history by winning a gold and following his father’s footsteps. Goran Sukno of Yugoslavia won an Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. “He is even happier than me,” said Sukno.
In the bronze medal game, Serbia defeated Montanegro, 12-11, despite both of Serbia’s coaches being ejected in the final minute of play. Serbia overcame a three-goal deficit in the final period.
Hungary defeated Spain, 14-6, to finish fifth.
Australia knocked off a demoralized U.S. team, 8-4, to finish seventh, its best placing in 20 years. The U.S. had won its first three matches and then lost five in a row to place a disappointing eighth.
“We had a rough two weeks, this wasn’t a very good way to finish, for sure,” said U.S. coach Terry Schroeder. “We never recovered from the losses to Serbia, Hungary and Croatia.
“We played a pretty good first game against Montanegro, but there were signs against Romania and Great Britain which didn’t look good. It’s hard to figure out right now.”
In 2008, the U.S. had won the silver medal. The 2012 team had 10 players back from the 2008 squad. The players had skipped the club season in Europe and its lucrative contracts to train together six days a week for seven months this year leading up to London.
“Eighth is definitely a failure,” said U.S. top player and team captain Tony Azevedo. “Once you start playing badly, it’s hard to get out of that mindset. But we’ll learn from this and hope the younger generation will build from the success in 2008.”
In the final aquatics medals table, the U.S. finished first with 36 medals (18 gold, 10 silver and 8 bronze) followed by China with 22 (11 gold, 6 silver, 5 bronze), Australia (1 gold, 7 silver, 4 bronze) and Japan with 11 (3 silver, 8 bronze).
The biggest aquatic disappointment was host country Great Britain with only four medals (1 silver, 3 bronze).
Hungarian Breaks Swim Record
Hungary’s Sarolta Kovacs broke the Olympic record for the swimming leg of the women’s modern pentathlon while her compatriot Adrienn Toth took an overall lead in the race for the final gold medal.
In the swimming leg, a 200-meter freestyle, the two fastest swimmers broke the previous Olympic record of 2:08.86. Kovacs set a record of 2:08.11 while Britain’s Samantha Murray clocked 2:08.20.
Laura Asadauskaite, 28, of Lithuania won the modern pentathlon gold medal. Murray took the silver and Brazil’s Yane Marques won the bronze.
1,454 Days Until Rio 2016
The United States set the gold standard at the London Olympics winning 46 gold medals and 104 medals overall.
The gold medal total was the highest for the U.S. in an Olympics held on foreign soil. It was the fifth consecutive Olympics that the U.S. has led the medal count.
“We had very, very high expectations coming into the Games and I think our expectations have been exceeded both on the field of play and off,” said Scott Blackmum, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Swimmers won the most medals for Team USA with 31. That equaled the Beijing team’s total but the London swimmers won 16 gold medals, four more than the Beijing team.
China finished second in gold medals with 38 and 87 overall and Russia had 82 total including 24 gold.
Great Britain won 65 medals, 29 of them gold. Big contrast to 2008, when they won 47 medals, 19 gold.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com