Sophomore Men’s Water Polo Star Nets Cal’s 17th Medal
Aug. 12, 2012
LONDON - The California contingent closed out the 30th Olympiad with a school record-tying 17th medal when Aleksa Saponjic won bronze on Sunday morning with the Serbian men’s water polo team. Saponjic’s bronze brings the Golden Bear total to 17 medals at the London Olympics, trying the school record set in 2008 in Beijing. In the past three Olympic Games, Bears have won a total of 50 medals with 17 in 2012 and 2008 to go along with the 16 in 2004. Also competing on the final day of the London Olympics was former Golden Bear Kari Karlsson, who finished 42nd in the marathon. Check CalBears.com on Monday for a full recap of the Bears in London.
Track & Field
Cal alum Kari Karlsson, competing for his native Iceland, place 42nd in the marathon Sunday with a time of 2:18.47. The race began with 105 runners, with 85 completing the 26.2-mile course and crossing the finish line.
After coming through the three-mile mark in the 94th position, Karlsson slowly and consistently moved his way up the leader board. He was in 74th at the midway point and 53rd with about five miles remaining.
Holder of the Cal record in the indoor 5000 meters (14:03.06 in 2010) as well as the freshman mark in the outdoor 10,000 (29:28.05 in 2008), Karlsson qualified for the Olympics with a PR 2:17.12 during a marathon in Berlin in September 2011.
Men’s Water Polo
Cal sophomore Aleksa Saponjic has become an Olympic medalist as the Golden Bears’ standout helped his native Serbia to a 12-11 victory over Montenegro in the bronze medal match of the men’s water polo competition Sunday (Aug. 12) at the London Games. Saponjic has become the first Bear to win an Olympic medal in men’s water polo since Kevin Robertson and assistant coach Steve Heaston were members of the USA team that won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
With Saponjic’s bronze medal, Cal increases its overall medal count to 17 (including 11 gold medals) at the 2012 Olympics. The Bears’ 17 medals ties the number of Olympic medals captured at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Saponjic, who as a freshman was an honorable mention All-American for the Kirk Everist’s Bears, helped Serbia to a 6-1-1 record in London. Serbia’s only loss in the Olympics was 9-7 to Italy in the Friday semifinals. Earlier, Serbia had tied, Montenegro, 11-11, in a preliminary round on Aug. 2.
In the bronze medal match, Saponjic, one of the youngest players on the Serbian national team at age 20, played a little more than eight minutes, recording a steal and winning the sprint to lead off the second and third quarters. For the entire Olympics, Saponjic notched a goal in Serbia’s 21-7 win over host Great Britain back on July 31, and ended up winning seven sprints with four steals, two block shots and one assist.
In the Olympic’s seventh place match, John Mann’s Team USA squad suffered another heartbreaking loss, falling to Australia, 10-9, dropping to 3-5 in London and placing eighth. Mann, who played 10:15 minutes against Australia, recorded one steal and concluded the 2012 London games with goals against Romania, Great Britain and Hungary. The Americans had lost to Spain, 8-7, on Friday.
Mann helped the Golden Bears to the 2006 NCAA title and was the recipient of the Peter J. Cutino Award as the nation’s top collegiate player. Saponjic was third on the Cal squad last fall with 30 goals in 22 matches as a freshman. Saponjic and Mann are the first Cal Olympic men’s water polo players since four Bears - Gavin Arroyo, Chris Humbert, Sean Nolan and Chris Oeding - were members of the 2000 United States National Team at the Sydney Games.