By Mike Rowbottom

Prince_William_meets_Britains_water_polo_teamMarch 11 - Britain's men and women water polo teams, whose high-profile supporters include Prince William, will be able compete at the London 2012 Olympics after being given Host Nation Qualification Places today.

Water polo thus joins other domestic sports weightlifting, handball, volleyball, table tennis and judo in receiving a guaranteed invitation to compete at the next Olympics following deliberations by a British Olympic Association panel including chief executive Andy Hunt, world champion rower Sarah Winckless, chair of the BOA Athletes Commission, and Sir Clive Woodward, the BOA's director of sport.

"Great Britain has not had a water polo team at an Olympic Games since 1956 so I am thrilled that at the London 2012 Olympics we will be able to change this," said Hunt.

"During the last few years the women's and men's teams have played competitive matches against some of the best teams in the world, achieving very promising results and improving their world and European rankings.

"Both the women and men have gained valuable experience playing regularly in Europe - the women in the Hungarian league and the men as part of European clubs - and have now increased their performance to a level at which we are confident that they will perform credibly in the pool come 2012.

"London will also be an experience that the British players will be able to capitalize on for their future development towards the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and beyond, particularly the comparatively young men's team."

Sir Clive added: "The commitment and results that both the water polo teams have shown, and the innovative plans developed for water polo by the national governing body, demonstrate that the players will make the nation proud in 2012 and leave a long term legacy for the sport in the UK."

Britain won the gold medal in four of the first five Olympic Games between 1896 and 1920 but have not participated in the Games since Melbourne in 1956.

David Sparkes, British Swimming's chief executive, said: "We are delighted with the decision of the BOA to agree to take up the Home Nation Qualification places for both the men's and women's teams in London.

"There has been a massive effort by the players and the sport to raise their game and take advantage of this opportunity.

"We will continue to work hard with the teams to get the best possible result from the Games and we will drive our legacy programme even harder to ensure that after 56 years of absence from the Olympics, British water polo secures a future for itself in the Olympics."

Fran_LeightonFran Leighton (pictured), captain of the British women's team, added: It's absolutely brilliant.

"We've been waiting for this news for a long time, so to finally know that we are going to be part of Team GB next year is really exciting.

"All of our hard work and dedication has paid off and we're now focussed on being the best we can be to represent Great Britain on the Olympic stage.

"We're so happy that the boys will be competing alongside us and are really thankful to everyone who has supported us in getting to this point.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to show the nation how amazing British water polo is and inspire youngsters, no matter what sport they play, to give water polo a try."

Ed Scott, goakeeper for the British men's team, commented: "It's fantastic news for both teams and the whole sport, and is the culmination of all the hard work and sacrifices every one of us has made.

"To play a home Olympics is such a unique opportunity and we're all really pleased that we will get to represent Team GB next year in the sport that we love.

"Getting to showcase water polo on the world's greatest stage will hopefully encourage more people to get involved and help develop the sport throughout the country for years to come."

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