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WATER POLO : Spain’s Tiny Ballart a Giant in Rush Toward 3-0 Record

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Weighing only 150 pounds, Spain’s Daniel Ballart is not imposing.

But during the first weekend of play at the Junior Water Polo World Championships, Ballart packed a heavyweight’s scoring punch to help the Spanish advance to the second round with a 3-0 record.

Ballart, 18, who also plays for the senior national team, continually challenged opponents who were nine inches taller and 100 pounds heavier and scored 13 goals in Spain’s three first-round games at Newport Harbor High School.

Against Australia on Sunday, Ballart, who has more than 150 games of international experience on the junior and senior levels, used his entire arsenal for six goals and three assists in a 13-7 blowout.

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He even played some defense, first stealing the ball from Australia’s Matthew Wightman for a breakaway, then firing a close range skip-shot past Australia’s goalie, Simon Bedwell.

“That’s the great thing about water polo,” United States Coach Ricardo Azevedo said. “You can see a guy like Cuba’s Ivan Perez, who is 6 foot 8, dominate a game, and also a small guy like Ballart can do the same.”

Depite Ballart’s dominating play against Australia, Spanish Coach Joaquim Colet downplayed his star’s performance.

“Sure Daniel played well today,” Colet said. “But yesterday against Bulgaria . . . he was nothing.”

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Ballart had one goal in Spain’s 14-9 victory over Bulgaria.

“But the team won, and that is the most important thing.” Colet said.

Spain also won Monday, defeating New Zealand, 21-7, in its final first-round game to finish pool play with a 3-0 record to advance as one of the eight teams still in medal contention.

Spain faces the United States next, playing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Corona del Mar High School in the second round. After two playoff games, four teams will advance to the medal round.

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“Although water polo is a minor sport back in Spain,” Colet said, “I feel it is the one team sport in which we have the best chance to earn a medal at the ’92 Olympics.”

Water Polo Notes

Pool play scores from Monday: Hungary 7, United States 6; Brazil 13, Mexico 3; Bulgaria 7, Australia 7; Spain 21, New Zealand 7; Yugoslavia 17, Puerto Rico 10; Japan 9, Canada 9; Cuba 10, Czechoslovakia 9; Italy 20, China 8.


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