Aug. 10, 2012
LONDON - Men's water polo was the featured event of the day Friday (Aug. 10) for Golden Bears at the 2012 London Olympics. Unfortunately, sophomore Aleksa Saponjic's Serbian squad lost in the semifinals, 9-7 to Italy, but still has a chance for a bronze medal on Sunday. Also, former Cal star John Mann's United States' team lost a heartbreaker to Spain, 8-7, and will next play for a seventh-place finish.
If Saponjic's team can win a bronze on Sunday, Cal would increase its overall medal count to 17 (including 11 gold medals) at the 2012 Olympics. The overall medal count is currently at 16, tied for the second-most in one Olympics for the Golden Bears, matching the 16 medals they earned in Athens in 2004. Cal's gold medal count in London in 2012 ranks second-most all-time, just one shy of the 12 gold medals the Golden Bears earned in London's 1948 Olympic Games.
Another potential Cal gold medalist is former track & field star Alysia Montano, who will be competing in Saturday's (Aug. 11) Olympic final of the women's 800 meters. Montano won both the NCAA indoor and outdoor 800 meter titles as a junior in 2007 and was the 2008 Pac-10 Women's Track Athlete of the Year.
Men's Water Polo
Despite a 9-7 loss to Italy in Friday's (Aug. 10) semifinal of the Olympic men's water polo competition, Cal sophomore Aleksa Saponjic's Serbian squad still has a chance for a bronze medal when it next plays Montenegro in the third place match on Sunday (Aug. 12). Saponjic, who as a freshman was an honorable mention All-American for the Golden Bears, has helped Serbia to a 5-1-1 record in London.
In another Friday match, John Mann's Team USA squad suffered an 8-7 loss to Spain, dropping to 3-4 in London. Mann, who played 10:43 minutes against Spain, will try to lead the Americans to a seventh-place Olympic finish when the United States plays Australia on Sunday.
Mann has tallied three goals so far in the 2012 Olympics - versus Romania, Great Britain and Hungary. Saponjic notched a goal in Serbia's 21-7 win over host Great Britain back on July 31, and for the tournament has won five sprints with three steals, two block shots and one assist.
Mann helped the Golden Bears to the 2006 NCAA title and was the recipient of the Peter J. Cutino Award as the nation's top collegiate player. Saponjic was third on the Cal squad last fall with 30 goals in 22 matches as a freshman. Saponjic and Mann are the first Cal Olympic men's water polo players since four Bears - Gavin Arroyo, Chris Humbert, Sean Nolan and Chris Oeding - were members of the 2000 United States National Team at the Sydney Games.
Saponjic is looking to become the first Bear to win an Olympic medal in men's water polo since Kevin Robertson and assistant coach Steve Heaston were members of the USA team that won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.