While we wait for the start of the 20th World Aquatics in Fukuoka, let’s take a look at what’s happening in other parts of the world.
A water polo event finished last night in Middle America. The tournament may have been overshadowed by the big World Aquatics competitions but is still worth mentioning.
The 24th Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC Games) were held in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, the smallest country in continental America.
Puerto Rico’s male water polo team made history by winning its first-ever CAC Games title.
You are wrong if you think that water polo doesn’t have a long tradition in this region.
The First Central American and Caribbean Games were held in 1926. They are the oldest continuing regional games in the world. Water polo was introduced in the fourth edition in 1938 (twelve years after the first European Championships) and has been in the program since then (the all winners’ list is at the end of the article).
Women competed at the previous four editions (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018), but only a male tournament with eight teams was played this time.
Puerto Rico won gold ahead of Cuba (silver medal), Mexico (bronze), Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador, Guatemala and Bahamas.
Colombia, which triumphed at the previous Games, held in 2018, didn’t participate.
Puerto Rico finished the group stage in 2nd place in Group B, behind Cuba, which won the CAC Games ten times. The derby ended in an 8:8 draw, and, according to the new World Aquatics’ rules, a penalty shootout determined a winner. Cuba won – 12:11.
The favorites didn’t have demanding tasks in the quarterfinals.
The semifinals produced a lot of excitement. Puerto Rico faced Mexico, which dominated Group A and aimed to win its 7th CAC Games title. From the beginning, the game was a close contest. But, Puerto Rico was a better rival in the 2nd and the fourth quarter for a 11:8 win.
Cuba played against Venezuela. The Cubans had a huge 8:2 advantage at halftime. They slowed after the middle break but saved a victory and booked the ticket for the final (12:11).
Puerto Rico and Cuba were in a neck-and-neck race in the final. After three quarters, the sides were tied at 8:8. Puerto Rico went to 9:8 early in the fourth period. It turned out that it was the only goal in the final eight minutes. Puerto Rico managed to keep a slim advantage and clinch the gold. Puerto Rico won bronze at the first water polo tournament at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1938. After that, it advanced to the finals several times. Now, it finally climbed the highest step of the podium.
Mexico beat Venezuela 11:9 to win the bronze.
24th Central American and Caribbean Games, water polo tournament
Round 1: Bahamas – Guatemala 10:9, Trinidad and Tobago – Mexico 6:30.
Round 2: Mexico – Bahamas 27:2, Guatemala – Trinidad and Tobago 14:16
Round 3:Bahamas – Trinidad and Tobago 7:11, Mexico – Guatemala 27:3
Standings: 1. Mexico 9, 2. Trinidad and Tobago 6, 3. Bahamas 3, 4. Guatemala 0.
Round 1: Venezuela – Puerto Rico 7:24, El Salvador – Cuba 1:25
Round 2: Cuba – Venezuela 13:12, Puerto Rico – El Salvador 27:3
Round 3: Cuba – Puerto Rico 12:11 – PSO (8:8), Venezuela – El Salvador 23:4
Standings: 1. Cuba 8, 2.Puerto Rico 7, 3. Venezuela 3, 4. El Salvador 0.
Quarterfinals: Mexico – El Salvador 25:3, Cuba – Guatemala 25:4, Trinidad and Tobago – Venezuela 11:23, Puerto Rico – Bahamas 23:7
Semifinals 5th-8th place:El Salvador – Bahamas 12:9, Guatemala – Trinidad and Tobago 8:16
Mexico – Puerto Rico 8:11 (2:2, 0:2, 4:4, 2:3)
Cuba – Venezuela 12:11 (5:2, 3:0, 2:5, 2:4)
FINAL: Puerto Rico – Cuba 9:8 (3:2, 3:3, 2:3, 1:0)
Bronze-medal match: Mexico – Venezuela 11:9 (1:2, 3:2, 4:2, 3:3)
5th-place match: El Salvador – Trinidad and Tobago 12:17 (4:4, 1:5, 2:5, 5:3)
7th-place match: Bahamas – Guatemala 16:18 (3:2, 5:5, 3:7, 5:4)
1. Puerto Rico
5. Trinidad and Tobago
6. El Salvador
*Guatemalan athletes competed as Independent Athletes and used the Centro Caribe Sports flag, because the International Olympic Committee suspended the Guatemalan Olympic Committee.
MEN – 1938: Jamaica, 1946: Netherlands Antilles, 1950: Mexico, 1954: Mexico, 1959: Mexico, 1962: Mexico, 1966: Cuba, 1970: Cuba, 1974: Cuba, 1978: Cuba, 1982: Cuba, 1986: Cuba, 1990: Cuba, 1993: Cuba, 1998: Cuba, 2002: Mexico, 2006: Cuba, 2010: Colombia, 2014: Mexico, 2018: Colombia, 2023: Puerto Rico
Women – 2006: Cuba, 2010: Puerto Rico 2014: Venezuela, 2018: Cuba