Last week, the United States obliterated Greece 18-5 in a World Cup warm-up game in Stanford. It was a first-class display from Adam Krikorian’s side, who were a class above their opponents plain and simple.
A large part of the spectacle, however, was not only focused on celebrating a formidable victory in the pool, but the international career of a formidable player – one of the greatest female players of all time, Melissa Seidemann.
It was fitting that the testimonial for Seidemann saw Team USA dominate and blow their opponents out of the water, as the Americans had hundreds of times over with Seidemann in the team. The three-time Olympic champion will now have to learn to enjoy those sort of victories from the stands, rather than from the water.
Seidemann made her senior international debut in 2010, enjoying immediate success with gold medals at the World League Super Finals and the World Cup in the same year. Between 2010 and 2021, Seidemann went onto win gold medals at 20 major tournaments, including three straight Olympic gold medals.
There is no doubt that the 32-year-old, who has now hung up her cap for good, will go down as one of the greatest female players of all time, and here’s why.
Her unmatched raw strength, coupled with exceptional technical prowess, made her an unstoppable force. Seidemann, much like the national team she represented, appeared to be infallible. Another invaluable attribute was her versatility. Whether positioned at centre-forward, expertly earning exclusions from her opponents, or diligently defending her own 2-meter line, Seidemann consistently displayed in-game adaptability. Furthermore, she possessed the ability to find the back of the net from any position, making her the perfect utility player.
Ultimately though, her medal cabinet stands for itself.
Being a three-time champion cements her place in the sport’s history. Seidemann is one of only two female players to have won three olympic gold medals, the other being Maggie Steffens. That is an extremely elite group of players. Steffens may forever be considered the greatest female player of all time, but it’s important to remember that Seidemann, so far, has matched Steffens all the way in terms of Olympic glory. Steffens also cites Seidemann as her role model, so the impact of this athlete cannot be understated.
Nevertheless, it is essential to view Seidemann’s Olympic achievements within the broader context of water polo, encompassing both men’s and women’s competitions. A mere twelve water polo players, regardless of gender, have ever attained three Olympic gold medals: the esteemed Hungarian ‘Golden Generation’ members (Benedek, Biros, Kasas, Molnar, Kiss, Szecsi), two of Great Britain’s pioneering Olympic athletes (Radmilovic and Smith), two Hungarians who appeared, amongst others, in the infamous ‘blood in the water match’ (Karpati and Gyarmati), and two of America’s three-peat team of Steffens and Seidemann herself. Seidemann’s legendary status among these twelve players is simply indisputable.
In addition to Seidemann’s three Olympic gold medals, she was also a three-time World Champion. At home, she was a Cutino award winner when with Stanford and a two-time NCAA champion with the Cardinal. In 2020, Seidemann was voted in the best seven female players of the 21st century in our Total Timeless 7 series.
So as the United States National Team continues to move on from Melissa Seidemann after fifteen years, the staff at Team USA will dream of finding their next ‘Seidemann’. And while the American women’s national team might continue their era of dominance, Melissa Seidemann should be honoured as an integral part of her country’s success in the sport.
Whats next for Seidemann? She is currently coaching the girls team at JSerra High School, and is passionate about teaching and education. She has previously held a role as an assistant coach at UC Irvine, so it might not be too long before we see Seidemann return to elite level water polo.
Seidemann’s International Career
Olympic Games: 2020, Tokyo, Japan (Gold), 2016, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (Gold), 2012, London, Great Britain (Gold)
Fina World League Super Final: 2021, Athens, Greece (Gold), 2019, Budapest, Hungary (Gold), 2018, Kunshan, China (Gold), 2016, Shanghai, China (Gold), 2015, Shanghai, China (Gold), 2014, Kunshan, China (Gold)
Pan American Games: 2019, Lima, Peru (Gold), 2015, Toronto, Canada (Gold)
Fina World Championships: 2019, Gwangju, South Korea (Gold), 2017, Budapest, Hungary (Gold), 2015, Kazan, Russia (Gold)
Fina Intercontinental Tournament: 2018, Auckland, New Zealand (Gold), 2017, Davis, CA, USA (Gold), 2016, Lewisville, TX, USA (Gold), 2015, Auckland, New Zealand (Gold)
Fina World Cup: 2014, Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia (Gold)
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