Report by David Brenchley
The British Gas women’s water polo team have been hard at work preparing for the LEN European Nations Trophy 2009 and, ultimately, the Olympic Games in 2012.
The team are based at the Manchester Aquatics Centre, the venue for next month’s championships, and train five days a week with sessions in the morning and evening, starting as early as 0730.
Although funding for the sport has dropped significantly, the team have made major steps forward since Hunagrian Szilveszter Fekete was appointed as head coach.
With the tournament on home soil, the team are aware that, although this can give them an advantage, it can also have an adverse affect.
Rebecca Kershaw said: “I think it is good and bad because you feel more pressure to perform in front of your family and friends.”
It will, though, be the best possible way to prepare for the Olympics which, according to Alex Rutlidge, is the team’s main aim.
“That is what we are training up for; we have aims which we want to acheive before 2012 so we are in a position to compete.
“We have got such a good opportunity. We are at the right age and it is in our home country and we are really excited about it,” she added.
Great Britain finished second in the last European Trophy two years ago and the team are looking to go one further this time.
“It is quite a realistic aim, to win. Looking at the results we have had against the top level teams recently I don’t think there is any reason why we can’t get to the final,” Kershaw said.
Fellow Lancastrian Rutlidge agreed: “We want to improve [on two years ago] and win. Doing well in that will get us into the ‘A’ qualifiers, which is the next step up and the key to getting into the Olympics.”
Rutlidge, 20, and Kershaw, 18, are both right-wingers and play for the same club, Manchester, so they know each other well.
They are both enthusiastic about their coach and, about their preparations, Rutlidge said: “We record all of our games against the teams we are going to play and watch them every week with Szilveszter.
“We then go through the tactics and how to break them down so most of the teams we know quite well,” she added.
However, through no fault of their own, they are going into the opening game blind, as Kershaw explains:
“Belarus have not had an international match at any level for four years so we have no idea what they do. We have no videos so we don’t have a clue what they are going to be like and they are our first game.”
Although the two youngsters are not expecting to be first choice next month, they are relishing the chance to be with the national squad and Kershaw feels that it will hold them in good stead for their future challenges.
“Obviously we want to get picked but, because we are so much younger than the rest of the squad, the experience of training with them is getting us better for the future.
“Our goal is for the Olympics and we will be the right age then, whereas they are the right age now.
The LEN Women’s European Nations Trophy will take place from 7- 12 July at the Manchester Aquatics Centre. Further information and tickets can be found online at www.manchester2009.com.
– but the sailors praise the new boats