CHESTER swimmer Frankie Docking-Smith is preparing to represent Great Britain for the first time after being called up for the European U17 Water Polo Championship Qualifiers in Slovenia later this month.

The 16-year-old, who has just completed his GCSEs at Tarporley High School, is the youngest player chosen to be part of a 15-strong squad after coming through a demanding selection process.

Now Frankie, who lives at Hoole, will line up against Russia, Romania, Slovenia and Austria between June 24-27 as Team GB fight for a place at the rescheduled European U17 Water Polo Championships in Malta during September.

Frankie, who swims for City of Chester SC and plays water polo for Liverpool-based Bridgefield, said: "Ultimately I just felt relieved to be picked.

"It's been a long process and I was nervous about whether I'd be selected. With swimming it's easier to compare yourself to others, you know where you are at, but in a team sport you're relying on the coaches to see something in you.

"It was great when the email came through to say I'd got in, I was a bit surprised but really happy.

"The best moment was ordering the GB kit online, that's when it started to sink in a bit. It'll be a really proud moment when I represent the country for the first time and I'd love to score a goal – I'd be absolutely buzzing!"

Frankie, a former pupil of Delamere Academy near Northwich, started playing water polo aged eight and quickly excelled.

Favouring a central (number six) or wide right (number five) role, he was regularly picked at regional level before being added to the England Water Polo Talent Pathway around 12 months ago.

Since then he has attended a series of training camps as well as a trip to Hungary, as coaches whittled around 50 players down to the 15 now picked to play at Maribor later this month.

The squad will take part in a final three-day training camp in London before jetting out in a bid to earn a place in the finals.

Frankie, who puts in up to five hours of water polo training each week in addition to a dozen hours of swimming practice, added: "It's exciting. We're a strong group and I think we can do it if we all pull together.

"We've all been on this journey together so there's already a good team spirit. Russia are one of the strongest teams in the competition but I think we have a good chance of qualifying for Malta."

Team GB manager Terri Halstead said: "After all of the squad’s hard work in lockdown I am delighted that we will have the opportunity to compete in Slovenia.

"I am so proud of all of the squad's dedication, discipline and motivation in this incredibly difficult period."