Sports 101

Water polo, one of the first team sports to be introduced to the Olympics in Paris in 1900, is an extremely physical and demanding sport. Besides treading water for 28 minutes, participants are subject to being kicked, splashed, and struck at, while at the same time trying to score a goal. Starting in 2000 at the summer Games, women will compete for the first time.

Q: What is water polo?

A: A game played with an inflated ball by two teams of seven swimmers each. The object of the game is to pass or take the ball over the opponent's goal line.

Q: Where does the term "polo" come from?

A: It is the English pronunciation of the Indian word "pulu," meaning ball. Just as the game played on horseback became known as "polo," the game played in water became known as "water polo," although there is no connection between the two sports.

Q: How did water polo begin?

A: As a form of rugby football played in rivers and lakes in mid-19th-century England with the object to "carry" the ball to the opponent's side.

Q: What are some important rules of the game?

* Players must tread water the entire game and cannot touch the bottom or sides of the pool.

* Players may only handle the ball with one hand, except for the goalkeeper.

* There are four periods in a game. Each period is seven minutes in length.

* A goal (1 point) is scored when the ball is thrown or pushed completely past the face of the goal.

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