Olympic Sport Lowdown: Water Polo & Diving

By Lindsey Last edited 90 months ago
Olympic Sport Lowdown: Water Polo & Diving

Following on from our splash in the Olympic swimming pool, here's our look at the other Aquatic disciplines.

You can't think about Olympic Diving without thinking about Team GB's wonderkid, Tom Daley, who was Britain's youngest competitor at Beijing 2008 and who won two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in 2010. He also took the first dive in the brand new Olympic Aquatics Centre. Before we go any further, take a look at Tom in action in Moscow earlier this year.

Just astonishing.

Olympic divers compete across eight events, four for men and four for women. Individuals and synchronised pairs dive from a 3m high springboard and the vertigo-by-proxy inducing 10m platform. Marks are awarded out of ten, according to difficulty and in the pairs, rewarding perfect synchronicity. Divers are acrobats, gymnasts, athletes and daredevils, providing an awesome, elegant and breathtaking spectacle.

The Chinese team currently hold all world records and won seven out of eight gold medals in Beijing. You can see them in action alongside our Tom and other elite divers from around the world at the FINA Diving World Cup - the Olympic test event - at the Aquatic Centre from 20-26 February 2012. Tickets go on sale from 17 November.

Want to get into diving? Enquire at your local pool.

Water Polo began as a water-based version of rugby played in rivers and lakes but became an Olympic sport in 1900 (although the women's competition was not introduced until 2000). It is more akin to a swimming form of Handball today.

Here's how it works. Two teams of seven face off in the pool with a goal at each end. Players must not touch the bottom or the side of the pool during play so strong treading water skills are required (competitors use the 'eggbeater' technique, like synchronised swimmers). Individuals may swim the equivalent of an incredible three miles in a match.

Matches are divided into four periods of eight minutes. The teams race for the ball at the start, then fight for it, lob it accurately at their team mates, or at the goal. In 30 seconds. Then repeat, back the other way. Relentless swimming. Yes, Water Polo is a very tough, very physical sport. Have a look at it in this video (you can mute the Queen track).

So who's good at it? Hungary are the current men's Olympic champions and the Netherlands took the gold medal for the women in Beijing 2008. Great Britain hasn't had an Olympic medal since 1920, and hasn't qualified for the Games since 1956. At London 2012, Team GB fields a men's and women's team as host nation. Training is going well for our women. At the recent four nations invitational, they scored Bronze and have subsequently qualified for the European Championships in Eindhoven in January.

Water Polo will be played in Water Polo Arena next to the Olympic Aquatic Centre.

Sounds like your kind of sport? There are plenty of local clubs you can join. Otter Water Polo men and women train at Victoria, Porchester Baths in Bayswater, Crystal Palace and ULU. West London Penguin is based at Fulham, Ealing Crabs at Perivale and Eastern Otters at Stratford. London Poly Water Polo has a history reaching back to the White City Olympics of 1908 and currently trains all over London. London Orca is the Out to Swim team and they train in London and Brighton.

Get the Londonist lowdown on all Olympic and Paralympic sports ahead of London 2012.

Last Updated 26 October 2011