Bronze haul was a thrill

Nicola Zagame:  Helped win bronze for Australia .  Picture: Pat Scala
Nicola Zagame: Helped win bronze for Australia . Picture: Pat Scala
Water rescue: Coach Greg McFadden (middle) of Cronulla celebrates Australia’s water polo bronze on Friday with his team. Picture: Pat Scala

Water rescue: Coach Greg McFadden (middle) of Cronulla celebrates Australia’s water polo bronze on Friday with his team. Picture: Pat Scala

AUSTRALIA’S water polo team helped secure the region’s second bronze medal with a 13-11 extra time win against Hungary on Friday.

The team, featuring Cronulla water polo trio Alicia McCormack, Nicola Zagame and Holly Lincoln-Smith and coached by Sutherland Shire’s Greg McFadden celebrated the win in remarkable style.

They joined Endeavour Sports High graduate Kaarle McCulloch, who days earlier combined with Anna Meares to win a bronze cycling medal in the team sprint.

For McCormack, the tournament doubled as her retirement, with the goalkeeper claiming a second bronze having been part of Australia’s 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze-medal team.

Lincoln-Smith scored two goals, Zagame captured another, while McCormack was in the thick of the action.

The Stingers goalkeeper was a relieved woman after Australia’s extra time victory.

The team looked to have secured third spot, leading by one goal with less than six seconds on the clock with McCormack in possession.

Dramatically, she had the ball wrestled away by Hungary’s Dora Antal, who scored to level the scores on the stroke of full-time.

‘‘It doesn’t matter what I’ve done in the rest of the tournament, that one second could have crucified us for a bronze medal,’’ McCormack told Fairfax Media.

‘‘I would never have lived it down for all those teammates and the time they’ve put in.

‘‘I said to them, ‘I won’t let a goal in extra time I promise you that’ and I didn’t.

‘‘They drove it home up the other end.’’

A joyful coach Greg McFadden joined his charges in the pool after watching Gemma Beadsworth score two extra time goals to secure the win.

‘‘I needed to get wet, I was overheating,’’ McFadden said.

‘‘I thought the game was all over, that we’d control the ball.

‘‘Unluckily, Alicia didn’t see a player come underwater.

‘‘We spent four years together chasing the dream.

‘‘We’ve been beaten in extra time, we’ve had a really tough Olympics but we’ve come back really well and showed lots of character.’’

Australia lost a gold medal qualifying match to the US 11-9 in extra time just days earlier.

The 2012 Paralympics start on Wednesday, August 29, with swimmers Reagan Wickens, of Grays Point, Mitch Kilduff, of Carlton, and Michael Auprince, of Peakhurst, contesting a range of events.

OLYMPICS RECAP

? Kaarle McCulloch, of St George Cycling Club, rode alongside Queenslander Anna Meares to win a bronze medal in the team sprint.

? Cronulla water polo trio Alicia McCormack, Nicola Zagame and Holly Lincoln-Smith won bronze for Australia.

? Ben St Lawrence, of St George Athletics Club, finished 20th in the men’s 10,000 metre final.

? Former Kirrawee High School student Eloise Wellings was 21st in the women’s 10,000 metre final and finished 15th in the first heat of the women’s 5000m race.