Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ailing Americans Make Splash Humbert Leads U.S. to Water Polo Gold with Win over Cuba

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ailing Americans Make Splash Humbert Leads U.S. to Water Polo Gold with Win over Cuba

Article excerpt

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- It was no time to be sick.

Chris Humbert's ear was so infected when the Pan American Games water polo competition began, he missed the first two matches in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Tired, his head aching, his chest congested, his ear shut, Humbert and several ailing teammates set up a sick bay where they rested between matches. Their bodies were suffering, but their game didn't.

The 6-foot-7 Humbert scored five goals Friday night as the United States beat Cuba 11-7 to claim the gold medal and earn a trip to the Sydney Olympics.

"I came to the pool and my temperature was 101," Humbert said. "This week hasn't been a lot of fun. We had to quarantine all the sick guys. We've come through some adversity, and this feels good."

Humbert's offense was a big part of the Americans' commanding victory over a Cuban team they beat just 6-4 when their lanky two-meter man couldn't play early in the tournament.

Also sparking the United States was the defense and length-of-the-pool passing of goalie Daniel Hackett.

Christopher Oeding and Humbert got behind the Cuban defense and took long passes from Hackett for easy scores within 40 seconds of one another to open the second period and make it 4-1. The United States led 6-2 at the half and 10-3 after three periods, using their superior swimming ability and strength.

"I don't think I could throw one any better than the one to Chris," Hackett said. "You're always confident he will finish any shot.

"This game was just a test because half our guys have the flu, including Chris. He couldn't even practice all week."

The U.S. women's basketball team looked like a group that hasn't spent much time together, which is precisely the case, but still won its opener.

Reserves Michelle Marciniak and Amy Herrig gave Team USA the spark it needed to get past Argentina 63-55. Marciniak got the Americans going with two length-of-the-court drives for baskets, and Herrig had 15 points and nine rebounds.

The United States isn't using a top team in the Pan Am Games, and the players didn't start practicing until July 17. The lack of time together was evident as coach Nell Fortner substituted constantly looking for the right combination. …

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