AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) - Greece is worried that an early exit from the Olympic water polo tournament will hamper the sport's development in a country crippled by debt.
The Greeks, ancestral home of the Olympics, lost to Australia 13-8 on Monday, a lackluster result for a country with a strong water polo tradition.
Greece's best Olympic result is fourth at its home games eight years ago. It has qualified for 14 Olympics and missed out just once since the 1964 Tokyo Games.
Greece has won just two bronze medals in London _ one in judo, one in rowing _ as its people grapple with budget cuts and austerity measures.
Men's water polo coach Dragan Andric said his team couldn't handle the expectations.
"The pressure might be the reason," he said. "We didn't take our chances. It seems we are paying the price for being absent from big competitions for a long time."
Greek captain Georgios Afroudakis remains optimistic, although the 35-year-old warns budget cuts back home are threatening the sport's development.
Greece has won the bronze medal at the world championships and finished runner-up at the World Cup. But the team's exit from London follows a recent slump in which it failed to qualify for the past two world championships. The women's team, meanwhile, failed to qualify for London but won silver in Athens and is the current world champion.
Greece also failed to qualify for the past two world championships.
"We expect the government to support water polo. We believe in the new generation, and the Greek government must support this team," said Afroudakis, who stresses that swimming pools were in danger of being shut for lack of funds. "The swimming pools must not be closed. They must stay open."
"We expect the government to support water polo. We believe in the new generation and the Greek government must support this team.," Afroudakis said.
Paul Logothetis can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP
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