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January 11, 2005

Italians torpedo Australian water polo team

From: The Age, Australia - Jan 11, 2005

By Stathi Paxinos
January 11, 2005

It was a hearty thrashing by any definition, but for the Australian Deaflympics water polo team it was just an achievement to be in the same pool as the Italians. Leading 14-0 at half-time, the Italians eventually eased off their onslaught in the final quarter to finish with a scoreline of 26-0.

But for the Australians, who have been together as a team for only eight months, the competition is more about lifting the profile of the sport in the deaf community than about the results against teams whose players compete in regular international competition.

And at least they've got a full team, unlike the Americans who have come to Melbourne with only seven players, meaning that they play their games without substitutes. Against opposition such as Italy - and even more so tournament favourites Hungary and Germany - that is some achievement.

American coach Marc Ruh said his team started with a squad of 22 about 18 months ago but the number dwindled as the competition drew nearer because many of the players had college commitments. Then a few weeks ago, with the squad down to nine, Ruh made the decision to cut two members because of poor attitude.

He said he wanted only committed players, so the Americans, who beat Australia 16-2 in the second round, have had to adjust their style to a more controlled game. Australian coach Tony Andrea said these Deaflympics were the first time Australia had a team in the water polo event.

"We're here try to build up deaf water polo in Australia," Andrea said. "I'm hoping to inspire young deaf athletes and water polo players to take up the game and in four or five years play for their country."

And the enthusiasm of centre-back Costa Tragotsalos has not been blunted by the prospect of playing Hungary on Tuesday.

"I'm looking forward to it, no matter how good they are," Tragotsalos said.

In other results, the Australian men's basketball team stayed on top of its pool with a 144-40 victory over New Zealand. However, the Australian women's soccer team went down to Britain 5-0 and is still without a win in this competition.

Copyright © 2005. The Age Company Ltd.