Sept. 23, 2000
Sydney, Australia (AP) - In a wild ending to the first-ever women's Olympic water polo tournament that may never be topped, Yvette Higgins scored with 1.3 seconds left as Australia beat the United States 4-3 for the gold medal Saturday night.
Both teams stood in the pool after Higgins' goal, uncertain about the result. When it was ruled good, the nearly 17,000 spectators at the Sydney International Aquatic Center let out a deafening roar as if Australia's beloved "Thorpey" had won another gold.
American and UCLA coach Guy Baker argued with officials as his shocked team, one of the last teams to qualify here, looked lost.
It was a game of wild swings and emotional highs, as organizers had hoped when they added women's water polo after nearly 100 years as an men's only Olympic event.
Naomi Castle thrilled the crowd with 1:50 to go with her shot from the left side that gave Australia a 3-2 lead.
But after Taryn Woods was whistled for a foul, Brenda Villa scored with 26 seconds remaining to deadlock things and perhaps set up the tournament's first-ever overtime.
It wasn't to be. An apparent Australian goal was disallowed because of a U.S. foul. Then the Aussies set it out for Higgins, who rifled it past goalie Bernice Orwig with scant seconds left.
No one knew what to do. Fans wanted to cheer, but the goal judge had not made a call. And Baker was rushing up the pool deck asking for clarification and extra time.
The official notice set off bedlam and brought a close to the Olympics' first women's event.
The United States had not won a water polo medal since consecutive silvers in 1984 and 1988. Three UCLA players - Robin Beauregard, Nicolle Payne and Coralie Simmons - plus Baker earned silver medals, bringing UCLA's medal count to five.