22.08.2008 – Graham Croker

Sydney University’s two women’s water polo representatives at the Beijing Olympics, Nikita Cuffe and Taniele Gofers, will return home with bronze medals following Australia’s nail-biting 12-11 win over Hungary last night.

The teams were tied at 11-all after four quarters of regulation time and two overtime periods before Australian goalkeeper Emma Knox lunged to the right of the net to block Rita Dravucz’s penalty shot, the final shot of the shoot-out, and clinch the win in the bronze medal play-off.

Bronwen Knox and Kate Gynther netted three goals each for Australia, while Dora Agnes Kisteleki was the high scorer four Hungary, with four.

Hungary finished first in Group B, but lost to the Netherlands 8-7 in the semi-final round on Tuesday, while Australia finished second in Group B, but lost to the Americans 9-8 in the semi-final. In the gold medal final, the Netherlands hung on to defeat the United States 9-8.

After winning the gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and silver at the 2007 World Championships, the Stingers were well in the mix in Beijing until a poor third quarter against the US in their semi-final cost them a shot at the gold medal.

The Australians were well and truly in the match at half-time when the scores were locked at 4-4 all, but the US scored three straight goals to open the third period and eventually ran out 9-8 winners.

Cuffe, who still sports a bloody eye from an earlier pool game against Hungary, hinted that the bronze medal play-off would be her last game after three Olympic campaigns.

One of the most decorated members of the Sydney University Lions in the National Women’s Basketball League, Cuffe completed her undergraduate studies at Griffith University before deciding to further her education at Sydney University.

After representing Australia at the 1999 World Junior Championships in Messina, she was selected as a reserve for the gold-medal winning Australian side in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The next year she stepped up to become a fully-fledged member of the national team which finished fifth at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

In 2002 she was the leading goal-scorer and MVP of the national titles, and cemented her place as a permanent fixture in the national senior side. She was also a member of the gold medal-winning team from the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.

Cuffe made her competitive Olympic debut at the Athens Games in 2004.