HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Led by Maggie Steffens and Ashleigh Johnson, the U.S. women rolled to their second straight gold medal. Steffens was named MVP for the second straight Olympics, and Johnson provided a steady presence in goal. Filip Filipovic and Dusan Mandic helped Serbia win the men’s tournament for the first time after finishing third in each of the previous two games. Mandic scored four times and Filipovic had two goals during an 11-7 victory over Croatia in the final.
WHAT’S NEW: The women’s tournament includes 10 countries, up from eight in Rio.
TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: Anyone other than the U.S. taking the women’s gold would be a major surprise. Steffens and Johnson are back, surrounded by a talented roster that rivals the United States’ loaded 2016 team. When it comes to potential challengers, check out Rita Keszthelyi and Hungary and Australia, led by captain Rowie Webster and Bronwen Knox. The men’s tournament is wide open, made even more uncertain by the pandemic wreaking havoc on the traditional international schedule. Italy won the world title for the fourth time in 2019, beating Spain 10-5 in the final. But Italy lost to the United States in the semifinals of this year’s FINA World League Super Final. Traditional powers Serbia, Croatia and Hungary all should be in the mix in Tokyo.
ATHLETES TO WATCH: U.S. attacker Maddie Musselman, the daughter of former major league pitcher Jeff Musselman, is going for her second straight gold medal after she scored 12 goals and made the all-tournament team at the 2016 Olympics. Musselman, 23, was named MVP after the U.S. won this year’s World League Super Final for the seventh straight time. On the men’s side, Pietro Figlioli is hoping to lead Italy to its first Olympic gold medal since 1992. Figlioli scored 14 times in Rio.