China men and Kazakhstan women took the top honours on the final day of the 2023 Asian Water Polo Championships in Singapore on March 27.
After six days of intense competition, the tournament drew to an epic close at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
While the Kazakh women had already secured their gold medal on the penultimate day of competition with an unassailable lead in the double round-robin format, there was still all to play for in the men’s competition.
After all the classification matches were decided and the Kazakhstan men’s team had beaten Thailand 18-7 to win the bronze medal, all eyes were on the final match of the competition: China vs Iran for the men’s title.
It was Iran who drew first blood, racing to a 3-0 lead to suggest an upset may be on the cards.
Both sides had last met in the 2022 Asian Water Polo Championships in Thailand where China edged out Iran 11-10.
But any hopes of revenge began to fade as the Chinese mounted a fightback.
The Chinese were level at 4-4 at the end of the second quarter. By the middle of the third quarter, they had pulled away to a 6-4 lead.
Iran tried to stay within touching distance and managed to pull close at 8-9. But goals by captain and Player of the Match Chen Zhongxian sealed the win for China.
Said Chen: “Iran got off to a good start but we never stopped believing we could win the match. We kept motivating and encouraging each other and fed off each other’s energy. It was a very satisfying win.”
Said China coach Petar Porobic: “This is a good result for the team. It gives us confidence going into the World Championships and the Asian Games.
“The World Championships will be a learning experience for our team. But at the Asian Games, we want to win the gold. Japan is the favourite for now, but in six months, a lot of things can change.”
Host Singapore ended the tournament with mixed results.
While the men beat Uzbekistan 12-11 to finish the championships in fifth place, the women could not get the better of Thailand and fell 4-9. They finished fourth among the four women’s teams.
The consolation for the women is that they still qualified for May’s World Aquatics Water Polo World Cup – Division 2 Qualifier in Berlin.
This event served as a qualifier for the Berlin tournament with the top four men and women’s teams earning slots.
Among the men, China, Iran, Kazakhstan and Thailand made the cut. While all four women’s teams – Kazakhstan, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Singapore – earned a trip to Berlin.
FINAL DAY RESULTS
Kazakhstan bt Uzbekistan 12-6
Player of the Match: Khritankova Viktoriya (Kazakhstan)
Singapore lost to Thailand 4-9
Player of the Match: Benyakorn Khunprathum (Thailand)
7th-8th Placing Match
Hong Kong lost to Philippines 10-12
Player of the Match: Teodoro Roy P. Canete Jr. (Philippines)
5th-6th Placing Match
Singapore bt Uzbekistan 12-11
Player of the Match: Koh Jian Ying (Singapore)
Bronze Medal Match
Thailand lost to Kazakhstan 7-18
Player of the Match: Shakenov Murat (Kazakhstan)
Gold Medal Match
Iran lost to China 8-11
Player of the Match: Chen Zhongxian (China)