The Great Britain men's water polo team has been strengthened by players going abroad to represent professional sides, according to captain Craig Figes.
Figes, 33, is the "senior statesman" of a young squad, and he believes the foreign programme has given his team more experience and maturity as they prepare for the Olympics. Members of the Great Britain squad have spent time in top water polo countries like Hungary, Spain and Australia, and are now back at their Manchester base ahead of the Games.
"The team's looking pretty strong," he told Press Association Sport before a full squad training session at the Manchester Aquatics Centre. "The preparations have been going on for five years now, or more."
Asked why he feels the system has benefited the squad, he said: "The European teams are all professional whereas the league here is amateur, so it was the best way for us to get competitive training against so many of the players that we'll be playing against when they play for their respective national teams in the Olympics.
"We would have played against players in the leagues for club teams, and it's a great way of being able to train twice a day, for five or six hours a day, as a professional. It's the best way for us to prepare."
Great Britain have been drawn in a tough group in the Olympics, but Figes is setting realistic targets. They will play against champions Hungary, as well as USA and Serbia, who came second and third respectively in 2008. They will also face Montenegro, who came fourth in Beijing, and Romania.
"We're really focusing on the Romania game, who we play first. They're one of the teams we've targeted that we thought we could beat," Figes said. "Unfortunately the other teams we were targeting have been drawn in the other group."
Figes said his role as captain has been made easier in the last couple of years.
"I'm definitely the senior statesman," he said.
"I've been playing for GB for nearly 20 years, and I guess certainly in the early period of this programme, four or five years ago, my role was probably a lot harder than it is now. They (the players) had to mature quickly. They are with older players in their club teams, so they learn a lot from them."