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 the last two years in top water polo countries like Hungary, Spain and Australia, and they are now back at their Manchester base to make final preparations for the Games.
The national team has suffered cuts to its funding in recent years, but Figes believes they should not complain.
"The team's looking pretty strong," he said.
"The preparations have been going on for five years now, or more."
Figes, from Bristol, played in Italy this year and Australia the year before that.
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."
In contrast to the men's team, the women's squad have been permanently based in Manchester, and every two weeks they have flown to Hungary to play in the country's national league.
Figes said: "Obviously we've had difficulties with the funding cuts, as a lot of other sports have, but I genuinely believe it's probably the best thing for us to go abroad.
"I don't think we can complain about being treated unfairly. We've only got to look at what's happening around the country. It's a difficult time for everyone.
"We're not one of the sports with the pressure of being a guaranteed medal certainty.
"So we were always going to be, along with many other sports, one of the possible areas where money needed to be saved."
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.
"Unfortunately the other teams we were targeting have been drawn in the other group."
The team will go to Romania and France before a squad of 13 players for the Games is announced in late June.
They will then play a tournament in Dublin and base themselves in Ireland for the run-in to the start of the Olympics.
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."