Water polo looks like all worst nightmare sport rolled into one. If you blended me into the deep end of an Olympic pool and told me to tramp water for thirty minutes while attempting to grab a ball and dodge backbiting opponents, I would probably be dead before the first goal was scored. Fans from all over the world can buy Olympic Water Polo Tickets online.
From the look of it, water polo combines the psychological irritation of playing handball against an eighth-grader with the violence of ice hockey and lacrosse, all with the added bonus of potentially drowning. It’s no surprise Bleacher Report ranked water polo as the number one hard-hitting sport in the entire world.
See the bloodied nose of the Greek player on the far right. Getty Though punching can get a player tossed from the game, many water polo professionals manage to get knock-backs from time to time. With a majority of their bodies sunken and lots of collapsing to reduce visibility for the referees, players are prone to kicking or hitting beneath the surface.
“With all these big bodies banging into each other, all the clutching and grabbing under the water, you have to stay close or you risk getting injured. You also have to know how to get away with plenty,” Russell McKinnon, a former New Zealand player told ESPN in 2012.
This accurately looks impossible. “Executives make sure players’ nails are filed down — scratching with fingers and toes is one of the most common dirty techniques — but players still leave the pool covered in bumps, scratches, and welts, and sometimes the swimsuits are in shreds,” ESPN noted during the London 2012 Olympics.
Imagine playing a sport in which your opponents refining their finger and toenails were so commonplace that an official had to check their hands and feet before every game. Similar to football, there is theatrics involved in playing water polo and effectively entangling your opponent without getting caught.
The potential for bodily harm combined with unavoidable violence means water polo is safely assumed to be the most difficult sport there is. So next time you tune in to the Rio coverage and see a bunch of grown adults splashing about in a pool, know that they’re probably the toughest athletes in the world.
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