Canadian Women’s Water Polo Team Misses out on Olympics

TRIESTE, Italy – The Canadian women’s water polo team was looking to put its long run of heartbreak behind it at this week’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Instead, yet another disappointing chapter was added after a one-goal loss dashed the team’s chances of reaching the London Games.

Emily Csikos of Calgary scored in the final minute but Canada couldn’t get the equalizer in a 7-6 loss to Russia on Friday. Canada needed a top-four finish at the nine-country tournament to qualify for the Olympics. “I don’t think I’ve ever wished that there was a fifth quarter in a game,” said Canadian player Christine Robinson. “But definitely today I wish there was.”

Krystina Alogbo of Riviere-des-Prairies, Que., scored three goals for Canada. Csikos had a pair and Dominique Perreault of Montreal added a single. The Russians led 3-1 after one quarter, 4-1 at the half and 6-3 after three quarters. Canada tried a set play after calling a timeout with 10 seconds remaining but Alogbo’s backhand shot was stopped by the Russian netminder.

“This is a devastating loss for the team,” said head coach Patrick Oaten. “We fought hard to represent Canada in London this summer but came up one goal short at the end. I’m incredibly proud of this group of athletes and all the work they have put in over the last many years.”

Rachel Riddell of Victoria played the entire match in goal.

The Canadian women also fell one win short at this stage prior to the 2008 Games, losing 5-2 to Greece in the decisive game of a qualifying event in Italy. Almost two-thirds of the current Canadian squad was at that tournament in Imperia, Italy.

They started training for London shortly after that defeat and came close to reaching their goal last October at the Pan Am Games. A victory over the Americans in Mexico would have secured an Olympic berth, but the Canadians came up just short in a gut-wrenching shootout loss.

“Definitely we have a lot of broken hearts and a lot of sad athletes,” said Robinson, a centre forward/centre guard from Lachine, Que.

Russia, Italy, Spain and Hungary booked their Olympic tickets with quarter-final victories. They will join the U.S., Britain, Australia and China, who all qualified earlier.

Canada went 2-1-1 in the round-robin portion of the tournament. Canada beat Kazakhstan 15-4, Brazil 11-4, tied the Netherlands 11-11 and lost 10-2 to world champion Greece.

The third-ranked Russians were 2-1 in round-robin play. Competition continues this weekend with the semifinals and placement matches.

The Canadian men’s team also failed in its bid for a London berth, losing 10-6 to Greece in the quarter-finals of its recent Olympic qualifying tournament in Edmonton.