Great Britain’s women finished in last place in the water polo competition at the London 2012 Olympics.
The inexperienced side, which had Burton-in-Kendal’s Alex Rutlidge and Heysham’s Beckie Kershaw in their ranks, lost their final game 11-7 to Italy last Thursday in the play-off for seventh place.
The result meant GB, who have won many admirers by running some of the world’s top sides close during the tournament, lost all six of their matches.
However both girls said the home side could be proud of their efforts over the fortnight.
Rutlidge said: “I think we are proud of the results.
“We really wanted to be competitive as we were losing by about 20 goals to these sides a few years ago.
“We gave Spain a really hard quarter-final and they got the silver medal.
“We only lost by one or two goals against quite a few of the teams and it’s frustrating to get so close when we could have beaten them but we have got good results against some of the top teams in the world.”
Kershaw said: “I remember in my first senior world league game we played Russia and lost 22-1, it must have been 2008 or 2009.
“In the three years since then we’ve got to the stage where we nearly beat them like we did in the first game.
“They can’t say we were an easy team to play against.
“We trained for seven years and I think we’re just proud that everyone played their part.
“We looked to maybe win a couple of matches and that didn’t happen but it’s given us a really good foundation for Rio in four years’ time.”
The Water Polo Arena crowd had something to cheer early on in the game against Italy however when former Heysham High School pupil Kershaw scored the game’s opening goal.
But Italy scored four unanswered goals in the second period to take a three-goal lead at half-time.
GB did have their chances and Rutlidge got herself on the scoresheet in the third quarter but the Italians were always in control and ran out four-goal winners and took seventh place.
Rutlidge, a former Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale pupil, said the Olympics had done so much to raise the profile of water polo, as it had done with many other sports.
“The Olympics were so good for showcasing our sport,” she said. “I’ve heard people saying how much they loved it and wanted to have a go.”
Kershaw said she believed that the experience put them in a great position looking ahead to the next Olympics in Rio.
“We just found out we’re going to the world championships in Barcelona next year which is really exciting and something to look forward to,” she said.
“We’ve shown UK sport what we can do with funding and we could medal in Rio.”
Both girls, who train at Lancaster but play for Manchester where GB’s centralised training programme is based, are now looking at the possibility of playing in one of the stronger European leagues.
Kershaw said: “I think we’re both looking at Spain but it’s down to funding.
“We don’t want a lot of money; we just want be able to live.”