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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: Gold medalists Team United States celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's Water Polo Gold Medal match between the United States and Italy on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

U.S. Women Beat Italy 12-5 For Second Straight Olympic Water Polo Title

The U.S. became the first-ever two-time Olympic champion in women’s water polo on Friday, after a 12-5 defeat over Italy In the final at Rio’s Olympic Aquatics Stadium.

U.S. Women Beat Italy 12-5 For Second Straight Olympic Water Polo Title

Team USA won its first gold in the sport– which was added to the Olympics in 2000– in London four years ago, but only four women from that team– Maggie Steffens, Kami Craig, Melissa Seidemann and Courtney Mathewson– played in Rio di Janeiro this year. All four scored in Friday’s final, nonetheless, with Steffens’ third-period goal giving her a tournament-high 17.

The Americans, who trailed only once for less than a minute in six games in Rio, took a definitive lead on Kiley Neushul’s goal less than four minutes into the final.

By the end of the first eight-minute quarter, the U.S. led 4-1 and was never truly challenged after that. Neushul finished with three goals — on four shots — while Rachel Fatal and Mackenize Fischer scored two each.

Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, the first African-American to make the national team in women’s water polo, was incredible with nine saves on 13 shots, including a save on a penalty shot that came early in the second half before being replaced by Sami Hill with 2.5 minutes remaining. Hill made two saves in her brief playing time.

The U.S. had previously thrashed Hungary 14-0 in the semifinals, a game after which Johnson criticized her own level of play throughout this tournament.

The United States dominated this tournament following the shocking news on Aug. 3 that head coach Adam Krikorian’s brother Blake Krikorian, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, had died of a heart attack. Adam Krikorian left the team the next day to return to California, but came back to Rio on Aug. 8 before the competition began.

Friday’s final was the first matchup of former champions in five women’s water polo tournaments.

Italy won its gold medal in 2004.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 19: Gold medalists Team United States celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women’s Water Polo Gold Medal match between the United States and Italy on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

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Written by Pablo Mena

Writer and assistant editor for usports.org. NY Giants and Rangers fan. Film and TV enthusiast (especially Harry Potter and The Office) and lover of foreign languages and cultures.

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