Golden Bear attacker Saponjic brings home bronze medal for Serbia
LONDON -- Cal sophomore Aleksa Saponjic became an Olympic medalist in his first Olympic games as the Golden Bears' standout helped his native Serbia to a 12-11 victory against Montenegro in the bronze medal match of the men's water polo competition 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 increased 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 semifinals. Earlier, Serbia had tied Montenegro 11-11 in a preliminary round.
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 against host Great Britain, and ended up winning seven sprints with four steals, two block shots and one assist.