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Best team ever? U.S. Olympic women's water polo has chance at three-peat

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 6/24/2021 Josh Peter, USA TODAY
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LOS ANGELES — No three-peat banners could be found Wednesday when the 13 members of the women’s USA Water Polo team were introduced.

Humility reigned.

Head coach Adam Kirkorian muffled talk of winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals. But that opportunity is undeniable, with the American women in position to win a gold in medal in back-to-back-to-back Olympics (London, Rio and, next up, Tokyo).

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“I’m not going to shy away and say it’s not noticed,’’ Maggie Steffens, the team’s captain, told USA TODAY Sports. “Of course we know that we have been successful in the past and there’s an opportunity to bring a three-peat to the women’s side. I think it’s a cool opportunity for us.’’

a person holding a sign: U.S. Olympic women's water polo team captain Maggie Steffens says of the possibility of a three-peat: "I think it’s a cool opportunity for us." © Ronald Martinez, Getty Images U.S. Olympic women's water polo team captain Maggie Steffens says of the possibility of a three-peat: "I think it’s a cool opportunity for us."

No other team has won two gold medals since women’s water polo competition began at the 2000 Olympics. Yet another possibility for these American women was trumpeted during the ceremony held in the Kyoto Garden at the Doubletree by Hilton.

“The greatest team ever,’’ Greg Mescall, the team’s communications director, proclaimed as he gestured to the players.

Despite Mescall’s bias, it’s a legitimate question: Is the U.S. women’s team the best ever?

Last week, the Americans won all six of their games at the 2021 FINA World League Super League Final by a combined score of 105-42. A dominant performance at the Tokyo Games would be the ideal venue for the U.S. team to assert its supremacy.

But the team is not invincible.

The team’s 69-game winning streak came to an end in January 2020 when it lost to Australia 10-9 — the USA’s first loss since April 2018.

The pressure of maintaining that streak contributed to the loss, said Melissa Seidemann, like Steffens a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

“It was kind of an unspoken thing that was kind of building,’’ Seidemann said of the pressure to maintain the winning streak. “So while we don’t discuss winning three gold medals, we talk about how we want to be at the Games.

“We talk about how we want to be in a game. We talk about how we want the team to look. We talk about all those other things that we hope builds the foundation so we can win a third gold medal.’’

Standing in front of his team, Krikorian said he isn't sure if he has talked to his players about a three-peat.

“Maybe it comes up occasionally,’’ he said. “But we certainly don’t spend much time, if any, about trying to win a third (gold medal).’’

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Best team ever? U.S. Olympic women's water polo has chance at three-peat

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