Stinging for gold

2 years ago, 12 June 2012 (AEST)

Since making its Olympic debut in Sydney 12 years ago, women’s water polo has gone from strength to strength – and with it the Australian team. With two Olympic medals already in the bag (gold in Sydney and bronze in Beijing), the Stingers will be looking for nothing less than a podium finish.

“We are going there to win gold,” 29-year-old Kate Gynther said. “We’ve worked hard and we know we’re capable of it.”

The 13-strong team that will head to London favoured to win a medal was named today with Gynther as their captain.

“It’s a huge honour to be the captain of this team,” she said. “We’ve been working together for some time now and we’ve got a really good group of girls heading to London.”

London will be the third Olympic campaign for Gynther as well as her step-sister Melissa Rippon – the two making history for the most Olympic campaigns for Australian women’s water polo.

They are joined by three other Olympians from Beijing in Bronwen Knox, Gemma Beadsworth and formidable goalkeeper Alicia McCormack.

“I’m sure these players will play very vital roles in not only helping the other team members relax and settle into village life, but also keep calm heads when the games get tight as the tournament becomes sudden death,” head coach Greg McFadden said.

“The team has a great mixture of experience and hopefully youthful excitement & energy. The squad also has nine players who are capable of marking the opposing team’s centre forwards and the team knows that the Olympics will be won by the team with the strongest defence.”

One of these players is 24-year-old Holly Lincoln-Smith who will make history of her own in London. Growing up on Sydney’s northern beaches, Lincoln-Smith and her sister both competed in surf lifesaving that led to other sporting pursuits. For Holly it was water polo and for Emma it was the extreme sport of skeleton which took her to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. The pair now has the distinction of being the first Australian siblings to have competed at a Summer and Winter Olympics.

Lincoln-Smith and her teammates will have a tough competition ahead of them with powerhouse nations such as Hungary, Italy, China and Russia in the pool. Additionally, Australia’s long-standing rivalry with Team USA that is as strong as ever.

If Olympic history is anything to go by, when the two countries meet in London you can expect some fireworks. Australia beat the US on the buzzer in 2000 to take the gold but the stars and stripes then knocked the Aussies out of the medals in Athens and out of the race for gold in Beijing.

With Australia and the US going tit for tat at recent international meets, who will win in London is anybody’s guess.

“The US are definitely up there as always,” Gynther said. “They always give us a really tough match and we love playing them. But any of the eight teams in London are capable of winning. Even Great Britain who haven’t had that much international experience have really come along and proved themselves.”

Women’s water polo gets underway on Day 3 of the Games, Monday 30 July with Australia playing Italy.

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Read about Water Polo at London 2012 and Australia's Olympic history here>>>

Alice Wheeler
Australian Olympic Committee