Leighton: Stand up and be counted

GB women’s water polo captain Fran Leighton is expecting her players to stand up and be counted ahead of their first ever Olympics.

Eurosport

The Rotherham-born player will skipper the 13-strong squad, named at Manchester’s Aquatics Centre, as they prepare to face Italy, Russia and Australia.

Leighton – at 30, the oldest member of the squad – is delighted with the team going into the Olympics and the increased attention the sport will have due to a home Games.

“The good thing about our team is that we have lots of players who can step up on the day, rather than having any star players,” said Leighton.

“We have a good baseline of people and in different games, different people will set up, depending on the defence we are playing against.

“It’s really important that our goalie plays well and they’ve never let us down yet.

“Everyone in our squad is at a great level so it doesn’t matter who’s being subbed, we will expect good performances from everyone.

“With it being a home Olympics, I think we’re going to have our greatest support as well. Everyone in London and across the country have been so great for us.

“I’m seeing a lot more people with Team GB merchandise on the streets so the support has been brilliant. As long as the country’s behind us and supporting us, we’re going to give it our best.”

Leighton is delighted that with the announcement, the women’s water polo squad can start the hard work needed as part of their build-up to the Games.

But she admits her expectations have shifted as London 2012 draws closer, and believes the improvements shown, including qualifying for the European Championships for the first time in 15 years, has left her hoping for more at the Games.

She said: “I think if you’d asked me five years ago what I would consider a success this summer then I would say to actually compete at the Olympics, but as we’ve got closer to the Games we have improved and improved and you get greedy for more.

“You stop and think ‘we are as good as other teams’, so I just want to have good, competitive games and you never know, on our day we could be up there at fifth or sixth.

“It really doesn’t seem like the Olympics have arrived yet. With a month to go, there’s still a lot of hard work to be done and there’s still different things we want to work on in the pool so that we do ourselves proud in our greatest team.

“I would love for youngsters to see water polo on TV and think, ‘I want to have a go at that.’

“I really hope it does. I’d encourage everyone to call your local leisure centre, find out about mini polo. It’s great fun to play with your mates and there’s a real social side to it as well as keeping fit and healthy.”

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