By Jamie Holt, Sports Correspondent
As Great Britain counts down to the starts of the Olympics, MM will be running a regular series focussing on each of the Olympic sports in turn. This week: water polo.
Team GB’s 66-year Olympic water polo sabbatical will come to an end at London 2012 when it provides a team at an Olympic event for the first time since Melbourne 1956.
The four-time gold medallists will be represented by a men’s and women’s team in the Water Polo Arena, a temporary 5,000-seater venue that will be relocated elsewhere in the UK after the event.
Despite being the original power players in the sport, the last of Team GB’s golds came in Antwerp 1920.
Women’s water polo was only introduced at Sydney 2000. In international competition, Team GB’s women have proved to be more successful than the men in recent times.
That is why UK Sport decided to grant the majority of the £1.45m funding to the Manchester Aquatics Centre-based women’s team, after a 50% cut at the start of the Olympic cycle.
The men’s team, meanwhile, are scattered across European leagues.
Often described as ‘water handball’, the aim of the game is to throw the ball into the opposition’s net.
Strength, speed co-ordination and stamina are prized assets in this highly competitive event, and opportunities to take part in the oldest Olympic team sport throughout Manchester are plentiful.
GB men’s coach Cristian lordache has said that building a legacy from the 2012 games is more important than results – why not have a go at a new sport?
Manchester Aquatics Centre plays host to the City of Manchester Water Polo Club and will also be holding an event on 20th August, when Manchester Sharks, a gay and Lesbian water polo club, are hosting a free event from 3pm – 5pm.
Elsewhere, Copley Leisure Centre in Stalybridge is the home of Tameside Tornadoes who train every Sunday 6:30pm – 7:30pm.
Stretford Leisure Centre also provides training for the next generation of water polo stars. Mini Polo (eight years or older) is held every Saturday, 5.30pm – 6.30pm, U16s lessons are every Saturday, 6.30pm – 7.30pm and 16-18 year olds can attend every Sunday, 8.00pm – 10.00pm.
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