A roadmap to follow for the water polo competition at the Paris Games:

Athletes to Watch

—Maggie Steffens, United States: The decorated attacker was banged up at the Tokyo Olympics, but she still helped the U.S. to an unprecedented third consecutive gold medal. She is the highest scoring woman in Olympics history with 56 goals.

—Alvaro Granados, Spain: The 25-year-old Granados rallied Spain to a dramatic 11-10 victory over Croatia in January for the country’s first European championship. He scored a team-high 18 goals when Spain finished fourth at the Tokyo Games.

—Simone van de Kraats, Netherlands: One of the leaders for the high-scoring Dutch, the 23-year-old van de Kraats poured in a tournament-high 28 goals in her first Olympics in Tokyo. She powered the Netherlands to the world championship last year for its biggest title since it won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

—Marko Bijac, Croatia: The goalkeeper remains one of the best in the world. He won silver at the 2016 Olympics, and he was named best goalie at this year’s European championship.

—Francesco di Fulvio, Italy: The 30-year-old di Fulvio was the MVP at this year’s world championships. He scored a team-high 17 goals for Italy in Tokyo.

—Bea Ortiz, Spain: The talented Ortiz helped Spain to a runner-up finish at the Tokyo Games. She scored four times when Spain beat the U.S. 17-15 in last year’s World Cup qualifier in the Netherlands, handing the American squad one of its four losses in 2023.

Storylines to Follow

Steffens and the U.S. go for history. No team — men or women — has won four straight water polo titles at the Olympics. The Americans are thin at center this time around, but it might not matter with their array of attackers and Ashleigh Johnson at goaltender.

Hungary is the winningest program in men’s water polo with nine golds, but its bronze in Tokyo was its first medal since its run of three straight Olympic titles from 2000 to 2008. Gergo Zalanki and company are hoping to get the country back in the final in Paris.

—Croatia is the reigning men’s world champion after a dramatic 15-13 victory over Italy in February. It is looking for a second gold medal at the Olympics after it also won in London.

Key Dates

The preliminary round begins on July 27 at the Aquatics Centre, and the women and men alternate days throughout the Summer Games. The women’s final is Aug. 10 at the Paris La Défense Arena, and the men’s championship is held at the same venue the next day.

Reigning Champions

Women: United States.

Men: Serbia.

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AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games