Some Olympic sports look like something you'd want to try. This usually lasts until you see what it involves. Water Polo looks inviting. Swim up and down and throw in a bit of soccer. How hard can that be?

Judging by a thrilling USA v Netherlands women's final it can be extraordinarily hard, and no place for the casual, cowardly, confused, or the cautious.

The athletes need swimming techniques able to serve them well in conventional swimming. Then they must support themselves in the water for what seem extremely long spells. This is more than tough enough. Then comes the soccer part, getting the ball moving fast enough to allow for a shot.

Opponents have to keep contact to a minimum when the ball is somewhere else. Once a shooter gets a hand on it turns into a street mugging. The defence seems to be allowed to do whatever is necessary to block and obstruct. While this stops short of actual homicide by drowning it goes close.

One underwater shot of caught this perfectly. There were the expected flailing legs. Then there was the ball, momentarily submerged. Alongside it was the striker, completely under water, and getting some help to stay there.

Either the officials missed this, which if done away from the pool would result in serious assault charges, or become a country's official policy for obtaining information, or it was water polo as usual.

Finally, overlay heart-cracking tension as the massively favoured Americans struggled to put away an unfancied Dutch side, one determined to win or carry memories of the tulips, dykes, windmills, and recollections of one of the world's most advanced technological states to Davy Jones Locker.

In a game touching the best of sports, when the spectators can't take it, can't look away, and don't want either side to lose, the Dutch didn't lose.

Based on what I saw, if someone sidles up suggesting a friendly game of water polo, give it thought, a lot of thought.

The Netherlands score against the United States. Photo / AP