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2016 Olympics Aug. 19 recap: USA women's water polo claims second straight gold

Aug 19, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Following Friday’s day full of action in Rio, there are only two days left before the closing ceremonies for the 2016 Olympics.

Once again, the Pac-12 made its presence felt in a wide range of sports on Friday, winning golds, advancing to championship rounds and more. Take a look at the top Pac-12 storylines from Day 13 of the competition.


While a host of other Team USA squads have bowed out a little earlier than expected despite strong starts, the women’s water polo team had no such problems. On Saturday, with a group that includes 11 of 13 athletes with ties to the Pac-12, Team USA claimed a 12-5 victory over Italy to take the gold.

The Americans were in control throughout the match, putting together another contest with its robust offense and tough defense. A total of eight different athletes scored, including Stanford’s Kiley Neushul (3 goals) and Makenzie Fischer, and UCLA’s Rachel Fattal (2) and Maddie Musselman (2). After carrying a 5-3 lead into halftime, the Americans put the game out of reach with a dominant third quarter, leading 9-4 going into the final period.

With a group of four returners and nine newcomers -- some without college experience -- Team USA was able to go a perfect 6-0 in Rio while repeating as gold medalists.

"These are strong, inspiring women. Definitely not kids,” said team captain Maggie Steffens. “They may have come in similar to how I was last squad as just a little pup trying to learn and soak in all the advice and experience from the older girls. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter your age, it doesn't matter how many Olympics you have been to, we are here to play and play for one another. They showed that throughout the games.”

Ex-UCLA star Courtney Mathewson, along with Stanford’s Steffens and Melissa Seidemann and USC’s Kami Craig were also on the 2012 winning squad in London. Meanwhile, UCLA coach Adam Krikorian guided his team to victory again despite the sudden passing of his brother right before the tournament started.

"It was hitting me pretty hard,” Krikorian said. “I was thinking about my brother and about how hard this journey has been. It would have been very selfish of me to let what happened to me personally affect this group. These girls have worked so hard for four years and some have worked their entire lives for this moment. Who am I, regardless of what happened to my family, to ruin that for them. It was very important that I stayed focused. I realized it's not about me, it's about the team."


Allyson Felix just keeps on adding to her medal total. On Friday, the USC alum collected her fifth career gold medal and eighth overall as part of Team USA’s 4x100m relay. The Americans posted a time of 41.01 seconds to top rival and silver-medalist Jamaica (41.36). Also joining Felix on the relay was Oregon alum English Gardner, and the two had no such issues with the baton following Thursday’s bizarre sequence when Felix was bumped, leading to a re-run of the event.

"It's really neat sharing with these special ladies,” Felix said. “We had fun out there."

Stanford grad Ekateríni Stefanídi was locked in a tight duel with USA’s Sandi Morris in the women’s pole vault on Friday, but eventually it was Stefanidi who claimed the gold medal. The 26-year-old cleared 4.85 meters to earn Greece’s first-ever medal in the event.

"I've jumped since I was 10 years old -- 16 years,” Stefanidi said. “I can't believe what's happened. It's amazing, the crowd were amazing, my parents are here. They were both athletes so they understand even more. It's one of the hardest events to compete in. I started so young. I'm glad to make my country proud."


After winning the silver medal in the 200m and the bronze in the 100m, USC sprint star Andre De Grasse also added another bronze on Friday as Canada took a third-place finish in the 4x100m relay. Fellow Trojan Aaron Brown also took part in the relay, which recorded a time of 37.64, behind Jamaica (37.27) and Japan (37.60). Team USA was originally the bronze-medal winner, but was disqualified following an illegal transfer of the baton.

“Either way we ran a great race,” De Grasse said. “We set a national record. I think [silver-medalist] Japan surprised us a little bit to see them up there. But congrats to them for their performance. Next time around we will just try to get better."


Team USA is back in the gold medal game for third straight Olympics following Friday’s 82-76 win over Spain, which featured NBA talent such as Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio.

Continuing the trend of his roller-coaster production during the Olympics, ex-Washington State star Klay Thompson scored a team-high 22 points while playing a game-high 35 minutes. Thompson went 8-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, while adding 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He hit his final trifecta at the 5:49 mark in the fourth quarter, pushing Team USA’s lead to 75-62. Meanwhile, former USC baller DeMar DeRozan didn’t see any game action in the semifinal.

In Friday’s other semifinal, Serbia topped USA rival Australia to secure the other spot in the gold-medal game. USA and Serbia clashed on Aug. 12, with the Americans eeked out a sloppy 94-91 victory that featured a strong fourth quarter from Serbia.

"It means a lot. That's where we wanted to be,” said Team USA star Kevin Durant of reaching the gold-medal game. “ We talked about this all summer. To be here on the final game, to win the gold. We like our chances, so we've got to come out and play with a lot of intensity, and a lot of passion, and energy, and we'll be fine."

Australia came out completely flat against Serbia on Friday, recording just 5 points in the first quarter and 14 by halftime. WSU alums Aron Baynes (7 points, 8 rebounds) and Brock Motum (13 pts, 2 reb), and ex-Utah star Andrew Bogut (4 pts) will go for the bronze medal against Spain on Sunday.


Reigning Pac-12 Diver of the Year Rafael Quintero, representing Puerto Rico, advanced to Saturday’s semifinals in the 10m platform event after ranking 10th in Friday’s prelims. Working with his coach from the University of Arizona, Omar Ojeda, Quintero racked up a score of 456.55. His top dive of the day was a forward 4.5 somersault, which garnered a mark of 94.35.

[Related content: Pac-12 Diver of the Year Rafael Quintero set to make Olympic debut]


A host of Pac-12 athletes and alums returned to the Olympic Golf Course on Friday for the third round of action in the women’s tournament. ASU product Anna Nordqvist, representing Sweden, is the Pac-12 clubhouse leader after shooting a 3-under 68 on Friday, pushing her three-day total to 4-under. USC alum Candie Kung struggled to shoot a plus-5 76 on Friday, dropping her to tied for 20th. Other top Pac-12 performers include ASU and Spain’s Azahara Munoz (t-15th, minus-3) and incoming Stanford freshman Albane Valenzuela (Switzerland), who is tied for 20th with a mark of 2-under.


After responding from two early defeats to reach the semifinals, the men’s Team USA squad suffered a 3-2 loss to Italy on Friday and will have to settle for a bronze-medal match on Sunday against Russia. Coached by UCLA’s John Speraw, the Americans dropped the fifth set, 15-9, to the Italians on Friday. USC alum Micah Christenson recorded 3 kills, while Stanford product Erik Shoji added 13 digs.