Monday, December 11, 2017
Sports

Out-of-this-world gold

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Ashleigh Johnson and KK Clark joined a couple of Brazilian dancers for a samba lesson. Maggie Steffens grabbed an American flag for the party on the pool deck. One by one, the players draped their gold medals around the neck of grieving coach Adam Krikorian.

The United States saved its best for last, and Italy never stood a chance.

Johnson made nine saves, Kiley Neushul scored three goals on four shots and the United States routed Italy 12-5 on Friday for its second straight gold medal in women's water polo.

"To play as well as we did (Friday) in that moment and that atmosphere in a gold-medal game when you've been thinking about this for the last four years is just … it's a dream come true," Krikorian said.

The Americans stretched their winning streak to 22 games with their sixth victory in Rio de Janeiro by a combined score of 73-32.

"I think we really did change the game," said Johnson, who was voted the tournament's top goaltender. "We played completely different than the game's ever been played before. Really fast, intelligent. It's really fun to watch, and it's great to play."

In another Olympics dominated by U.S. women, Steffens — the MVP and probably the best player in the world — and her teammates shined as brightly as any of them. The 12 goals and seven-goal margin were records for the Olympic final.

"USA is, in this moment, a team of another universe," Italy coach Fabio Conti said.

By the time Krikorian and the U.S. staff hit the pool for a celebratory swim, the Americans possessed each of the major crowns in women's water polo, adding their second straight gold to their world championship, World Cup and World League Super Final titles.

The scene after the final was the top of an emotional roller coaster for Krikorian, who rushed home before the United States' first game to be with his family after the sudden death of his brother Blake, a former water polo player at UCLA and beloved Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Before departing for California, Krikorian met with his players and urged them to make the most of their Olympic experience. He returned in time for an opening 11-4 victory over Spain and then nearly broke down in tears while talking about his brother after the win.

Blake's 49th birthday would have been Thursday, and Krikorian's wife, Anicia Mendez, surprised her husband in Rio to be with him for the day and then the final.

"It's not about me, and it's about the team, and that has actually helped me, and that's made it actually fairly easy," Krikorian said. "And that doesn't take away from the love I have for my family or my brother. It's more of a sign of respect and love that I think we all have for each other."

Krikorian brushed away any talk of winning it all for him and his family, insisting Blake would have thought that was a ludicrous notion. But his players pledged their support for their mourning coach. And they delivered with their play.

"That's what we're about," Steffens said, "is going out there, having fun and playing the best water polo we can."

Comments
Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has key statistics that he puts great value in, finding a close correlation between success in those areas and success on the scoreboard. Winning the takeaway battle is always first among those priorities, but he and his staff...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Tampa Bay Rays make a small deal, acquire INF Joey Wendle

While continuing discussions on bigger topics, the Rays made a small deal Monday, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from the A's for a player to be named later or cash.Wendle, 27, spent part of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 over 36 games. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

UPDATE, 6:14: The Rays continued talks with no major moves seemingly close, but did make a small deal, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from the A's. Wendle, 27, has spent parts of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 in 36 games. He is a lefty ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
hed

hed

AROUND THE LEAGUE: Magic forward Aaron Gordon said he’s free of concussion symptoms and hopes to complete the NBA’s concussion protocol in time to play Wednesday night against the Clippers. … Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is expected to make his season...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Isles back up confidence of coach with win over Caps

Isles back up confidence of coach with win over Caps

NEW YORK — Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves after getting a vote of confidence from his coach, and the Islanders beat the Capitals 3-1 on Monday night to snap a five-game winless streak. Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares scored goals for the Isl...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays made a small deal Monday in acquiring INF Joey Wendle from Oakland while continuing to discuss bigger ones that seem likely to eventually lead to the trade of closer Alex Colome and then others.The Rockies and Mets joined ...
Updated: 11 minutes ago

MAKING NEWSGRUDEN VS. DUNGY: THE CHOICE IS YOURSFifteen years later, Tampa Bay’s Great Sports Debate continues: Who deserves more credit for the Bucs’ Super Bowl victory, Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? With the Bucs set to induct Gruden into the Ring of H...
Updated: 1 hour ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot ShotsEmily Joseph, NortheastJoseph, a senior, has been a deadly shooter since her sophomore year. But this season she has added to her game. "She’s gotten physically stronger and has gained confidence," coach Will White said. "She used t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

TALLAHASSEE — Willie Simmons was named football coach at Florida A&M on Monday. The Tallahassee native will be introduced today. Simmons, 37, has been the coach at Prairie View A&M the past three seasons (21-11, including 6-5 this season). He played ...
Updated: 1 hour ago