Of all the so-called "minor" sports at the Summer Olympics few capture the attention of fans quite like water polo, where teams from across the globe compete in a high-scoring game that's part team handball, part swimming and all excitement.
Here's a glance at a trio of players to look out for when the water polo competition kicks off July 29, from a three-time Olympic champion to the reigning world player of the year and the best hope for the United States to end a gold medal drought that has lasted for more than a century.
Gergely Kiss, Hungary
The 34-year-old captain of the Hungarian national team is not only a three-time gold medal winner and the best left-handed water polo player in the world, but also a star of stage and screen, as Gergely Kiss portrayed a Soviet player in the 2006 film Children of Glory, which detailed the infamous "Blood in the Water" match between Hungary and the Soviet Union at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Kiss is the leader of a Hungarian squad that is riding an unheard-of 17-match unbeaten streak at the Olympics, with their last defeat coming at the 2000 games in Sydney.
However, the team hasn't won a World Championship since 2003 and has suffered a number of recent setbacks against European rivals, something that Kiss told The Global Times is at the forefront of his mind as the Hungarians head to London.
We are going to London to win. There are four or five teams which can win gold, and one of them is Hungary. We just have to be ready from the off and put all the history behind us.
Filip Filipovic, Serbia
More than one of the Hungarians' recent defeats have come at the hands of the Serbians, who are led by 2010 world player of the year Vanja Udovicic and 2011 player of the year Filip Filipovic. The Serbs are the reigning European champions and were the runners-up at last year's World Championships, losing to Italy 8-7 in the finals.
The 25-year-old Filipovic was the MVP of the 2011 World Championships and leads a loaded Serbian team that is considered by many the gold medal favorite at the London Games, an assessment shared by U.S. men's water polo coach Terry Schroeder according to the Associated Press via The Bradenton Herald.
"Serbia has certainly been the most consistent team over the last three years," said United States coach Terry Schroeder, who helped the Americans to a silver medal in Beijing four years ago. "They've been really the top team and I think they have the most balanced team right now."
Tony Azevedo, United States
The United States men's water polo team came tantalizingly close to winning its first gold medal since 1904 at the Beijing Games four years ago, falling to Hungary 14-10 in the finals. This was due in large part to the stellar play of Tony Azevedo, who will be making his fourth Olympic appearance as a member of Team USA.
The Brazilian-born 30-year-old has been nicknamed "The Savior" and hopes to make a record fifth Olympic appearance in four years when the 2016 Olympics are held in his birth nation.
However, the Rio de Janeiro Games are the furthest thing from the Stanford grad's mind right now, as the American team captain's focus is squarely on the task at hand according to Ryan Lucas of the Associated Press via Yahoo! Sports.
Every single one of us skipped the opportunity to play overseas. We as the older guys, the leaders, kind of talked about it and decided that this is definitely the best thing for us. We've worked so hard for so long, we know each other so well now that we just feel like this team is the one that's going to win it, if there is one. And we're just hoping that more time training together and getting prepared is going to be the solution.
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