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Water Polo Roundup

October 1, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ The all-time leading scorer in Olympic water-polo history is leaving the world’s biggest stage just as Yugoslavia is returning to it.

The sport’s top scorer ever, Manuel Estiarte, put Spain ahead 2-0 early, but Yugoslavia overwhelmed the defending water polo gold medalists 8-3 on Sunday to win bronze at the Sydney Games.

It is the first medal for Yugoslavia since consecutive golds in 1984 and 1988.

Hungary meets Russia later Sunday for the gold medal to close the Olympic tournament.

Vladimir Vujasinovic scored the go-ahead goal and Veljko Uskokovic had the next two as the Yugoslavs went up 5-2 midway through the third quarter.

Vujasinovic finished with three goals.

That was all Yugoslavia (6-1-1) needed, even with Estiarte looking for openings.

The 38-year-old star passed to Daniel Ballart on a man-advantage play, but the shot was blocked by Petar Trbojevic. Estiarte had few chances after that.

He ends his career and sixth Olympics with 127 goals. His proudest moment was accepting the gold medal from fellow Barcelona native and International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch in Atlanta four years ago.

Estiarte also led Spain (3-4-1) to a silver in Barcelona in 1992.

He was persuaded to try for consecutive water polo crowns this year, but an 8-7 loss to Russia _ that took almost 16 minutes of extra time to settle _ in the semifinals left him aiming for bronze.

It has been a long road back for Yugoslavia, a nation torn by war in the Balkans that was not allowed to defend its title in 1992 at Barcelona because of international sanctions.

It’s successful coach Ratko Rudic had left his homeland for the Italian team. In 1996, Yugoslavia lost to Croatia, of all teams, in the Olympic quarterfinals.

Yugoslavia looked like a gold-medal favorite in winning its group and defeating Australia in the quarterfinals. It led Hungary in the quarterfinals with 10 minutes left, but lost 8-7.

Spain was without coach Juan Jane, who was ejected during the semifinal loss.

In other games, Italy (6-1-1) scored twice in the final two minutes to take fifth with a 10-8 victory over the United States. Fabio Bencivenga scored five goals, including the game-winner with 1:51 to go.

The Americans (3-5-0) ended the tournament a spot ahead of their Atlanta finish, but way off the medals stand.

Croatia shook off its disappointing Olympics to defeat Australia 10-8 and take seventh.

Mile Smodlaka and Alen Boskovic scored three goals each for Croatia (5-2-1).

The Australians (1-5-2), with a large home following in the 4,000-seat Ryde Aquatic Leisure Center, got as close as 9-8 on Craig Miller’s second straight goal with 1:20 to go. 37.1 seconds left to sink Australia.

Greece (1-5-2), automatically in the 2004 Games in Athens as the host nation, defeated Slovakia 12-8 for its first win in Sydney and finished 10th.

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