By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Team GB gained 26 more members as both the male and female water polo squads for London 2012 were announced at the Manchester Aquatics Centre today.
This summer’s Olympics will see the first time a British water polo squad have taken to the water at the Games for the first time in over 55 years.
More history will be made by the women’s team, who have never previously competed since the introduction of their competition at Sydney 2000.
Oldham’s Joe O’Regan said: “I’m over the moon. This is the best feeling ever, it’s been hard not telling people before today – we found out a couple of days ago.”
“I’ve dreamed of being selected for the past few years. Now it’s happened, it’s not sinking in yet.”
“Do I think I’ll get asked to the Christmas lights on in Oldham now? Haha, I doubt it! What I do know is that we will carry on working hard before going to London.”
There is no room in the squad for Wigan’s Richard Lawlor, or fellow Mancunians Aine Hoy and Jade Smith on the girls’ team.
Women’s team captain Fran Leighton said: “It’s unfortunate we can’t take everyone, we have all put so much into it. However, we knew when we started only 13 of us could go on each side. That’s sport, sadly.”
“It feels absolutely brilliant. It’s great to know we’re selected. We want to play positively – we’ve had some really encouraging performances leading up to this announcement.”
“We will definitely get out of the group stages, I’m confident of that.”
30-year-old Fran, from Rotherham, will lead her side out against Russia, Italy and Olympic test event winners Australia in the eight-team women’s competition.
“I made a conscious decision some years ago that I wanted to play water polo at the highest level”, she said, adding: “It never crossed my mind back then I could go to the Olympic Games.”
“Having this base in Manchester definitely helps. The high performance centre lets us train and play together which we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”
Rob Parker, 24, cannot believe how well his selection has been timed.
“Everything has worked out perfectly for me – the home Games, moving to Manchester when the high performance centre opened six years ago – the timing’s been great.”
“I still have more to give – some water polo players peak at 25 or 26 but some of the best players in the world are 35. We’re a young squad and can only get better.”
“It’s starting to hit home that I’m going to the Olympics – I’m looking forward to our kitting up day next Monday.”
Joe, Rob and their teammates, led by captain Craig Figes, face tough opposition in the group stages. The top three countries from the last Games in Beijing – Hungary, USA and Serbia – will all be looking to qualify from the group which also includes Romania and Montenegro.
The water polo tournament takes place between July 29 and August 12.
More tickets have recently been released for the various sessions at the Water Polo Arena. For more information visit www.tickets.london2012.com