I am back in my flat in Manchester again having just had a very busy few weeks. We were in London at the beginning of this month for the London Prepares event in the Olympic pool and then we headed to Greece for the World League. We played ten games in ten days and achieved some promising results.
The London Prepares event was a very exciting experience. Each day we travelled by bus through the Olympic Park to the Water Polo Arena. The venue is incredible – walking in to the main pool hall on that first day gave us goose bumps! The facilities are amazing: the competition pool has the biggest grand stand I’ve ever seen, there is a huge warm up pool out the back and each team has their own meeting/changing room with showers and bathrooms. All the volunteers were fantastic too!
Our first game was against Australia and despite the final result I thought we did alright. It was 6-4 going into the last quarter but the Aussies were just too strong for us and pulled away to win 10-4.
It was very similar the following night against the Hungarians. We were within a few goals of them until the end when they widened the gap to win 17-10.
The third evening, though, was our night! We had a nail bitingly close match against the USA (who are favourites to win the Olympics). They went 4-0 up at the beginning but we fought back to 4-3 at half time. We hung in there until the very end when we even had an opportunity to take the lead. But their experience proved too strong for us on this occasion and they held on to win 7-6.
The result against the Americans gave us a real confidence boost, although the following week was to show us that we need to learn how to win in these close games.
Two days after the London Prepares event we travelled for 12 hours to Volos in Greece for the World League. In our group we had Russia (our first opponents at the Olympics). Greece (World Champions), and The Netherlands (Olympic Champions). Normally we would have played each team twice over two weekends but because of the Olympics the schedule was much tighter and we had to do it all in just one weekend. We played six games in sixty hours and it was hard work!
During the first round we had painfully close results, losing all three games by only one goal! In our first match against Russia we went down early but came back and were in the lead with just over a minute to go. The Russians are ruthless, however, and they equalised then scored the winner with ten seconds left. It was a similar story against both the Greeks and the Dutch – they were ahead, then we were ahead – but we never quite managed to hang on to the end. After every game we were heartbroken as we’ve never come so close to beating these top teams and the wins were ours for the taking.
During the next round our inexperience started to show and we couldn’t quite keep up with the others. We still had very competitive matches but lost all three games by four goals this time.
So that was our ten games in ten days and we got excruciating near to beating some of the world’s top teams. It was a great learning experience for us and we now know what we need to work on over these last few weeks. It is also very encouraging because a year ago these teams were beating us by a lot… so we are improving very quickly!
The next big thing, of course, is the team selection on 25th June. We have a squad of 19 that needs to go down to 13. No matter what the result, it is going to be very difficult as we are all such good friends. We have one more chance to impress Szilvester at a training camp in Barcelona next week, after which we are in Manchester until selection…
Fingers crossed… hopefully in my next blog I will be an official London 2012 team member!