WATER polo star Alex Rutlidge will fly out to China for the World University Games knowing a strong performance could seal her a spot in the British team for next summer’s Olympics.

Rutlidge, aged 22, from Burton-in-Kendal, started playing water polo aged 11 and has been busy training in Manchester with Team GB for the last four years.

And after beating world champions Greece in May, the former Queen Elizabeth Grammar School student is excited at the prospect of taking on the world’s best in London and coming home with a medal.

She said: “My dad used to play water polo for Lancaster and I really enjoyed watching.

“Eventually I started joining in and after attending a camp in Somerset, I had the chance to train with the academy in Manchester.

“Now we are heading off to China for three weeks and this is being seen as a mini-Olympics, which should give us an idea of the atmosphere and pressures to expect next year.”

As close as the dream is though, Rutlidge is very aware that only 13 of the 20 girls in the current squad can be selected for the Olympics, making the World University Games even more important.

“Obviously we are all really committed but I just have to give 100 per cent and do everything I can to make the team.

“We have made a massive improvement over the last few years. We used to get beat by all the top teams but now we are overcoming them and even beat Greece in May, a month before they became world champions.”

Other highlights so far include meeting Prince William with her fellow Cumbrian and England squad member Chloe Wilcox, from Shap, during the European B Championships in Manchester in 2010.

A rigorous training programme sees Rutlidge endure two-hour morning pool sessions between Monday-Friday and a one hour gym session afterwards, while the squad focuses on water polo on Tuesdays and Fridays.

She added: “We really get to focus in on water polo on the Tuesdays and Thursdays and that extends to media training and video sessions.

“The coaches are doing everything they can to make sure we are prepared for next summer and it has become a full time sport for us.”