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A year to remember ... now it's time to build on those successes

2018 was certainly a successful one for athletes in all our aquatic sports. In the first of a series of articles, we look back on those achievements and find out what 2019 has in store.

One to remember – that’s how Swim England’s water polo development manager Andy Fuller described 2018.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Great Britain’s U19s Men’s team qualified for the LEN European Championships.

A weekend of fierce competition in Manchester saw them win one, lose one and draw one to book their place on the plane to Minsk.

Although they were beaten in all their matches, there were encouraging signs and to reach the finals itself was a remarkable achievement.

The U19s Women’s team achieved a top 10 finish in the U19 European Championships in Madeira.

Head coach Nick Hume’s team opened with a thrilling 7-6 victory over Slovakia and posted a string of good performances to secure three wins and a draw on their way to ninth place.

Whilst there were many strong individual displays, an eight and a seven-goal haul for Annie Clapperton and Katy Cutler respectively stand out.

Looking forward to a busy 2019

As the national teams showed their worth on the international stage, athletes too, proved that the well of British talent runs deep. In April, City of Leeds Goalkeeper, Sophie Jackson signed for the University of Michigan on a four-year scholarship.

Andy said: “It’s certainly been a year to remember and we are looking to build on these successes in 2019.”

The domestic agenda was headlined by investment in the grassroots and significant development work to support the lifeblood of the sport.

Through the Swim England START Water Polo programme, more than £30,000 has been invested in community clubs across the country, resulting in the strengthening of clubs and the widening of opportunities for new people to try the sport going into 2019.

And Swim England confirmed it would support the national programmes next year.

The investment comes as Sport England talent funding for water polo will end from 31 March 2019.

But Swim England has agreed to back the U17, U19 and senior squads, plus the National Academy, to ensure the talent programme can continue as before.

Ian Elliott, chairperson of the Swim England Water Polo Management Group, said: “We look forward to a busy and successful 2019.”