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Winters and losers: skiers and skaters face funding freeze

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Ollie Williams | 14:07 UK time, Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Last week's UK Sport funding announcement brought good news to a large number of Olympic sports and a lot of athletes. The broad message? Here's more money; go out and win more medals.

But while one hand gave to hockey, gymnastics, skeleton and curling, the other took from skiing, snowboarding and figure skating. As things stand, those three sports will now receive no cash at all from the UK's central funding body for sport.

That news has taken a psychological toll on the individuals battling for results in those sports. Britain's top alpine skier, Chemmy Alcott, broke down in tears reflecting on a week where she broke her leg and lost more than £60,000-a-year in funding. Top snowboarder Zoe Gillings only discovered she had lost her financial support when a friend read it on the BBC website.

UK Sport may argue that if skiing's governing body cannot tell its athletes when they have just had all their funding axed, then it does not deserve the money in the first place.

However, life in these sports is not as simple as being funded or unfunded, and it is not the vanishing cash that most incenses Alcott and Gillings.

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Tears and fears for Chemmy Alcott (UK users only)

To place the withdrawal of UK Sport's support into context, the last funding announcement - in 2006, for the build-up to Vancouver 2010 - gave skiing and snowboarding roughly £600,000. Cash was specifically awarded to Alcott and Gillings, who both received in the region of £60,000 each year towards the costs of training, competing, travelling and support staff. But, in the world of competitive snowsport, that sum barely touches the sides.

"The money I was getting before paid for maybe one fifth of my programme," explained 28-year-old Alcott, resting her broken leg on the sofa, when I visited her London home. "With the help of private sponsors I had to put in more than £150,000 of my own money. UK Sport withdrawing their funding won't make a huge amount of financial difference.

"It's more the insult. It's about being told that people out there do not believe in you. To have your own national funding body not believe in you hurts."

Gillings, speaking on the phone from France as she continues her recovery from a knee injury, added: "To get all the services I really need, and that my American and Canadian rivals have, I'd need £90,000 a year." (She's posted a detailed explanation of how she spends her money in her Daily Mail column.)

Screengrab from Chemmy Alcott's Facebook page

How Chemmy Alcott reacted to the funding cut on her Facebook page.

The central tenet of UK Sport's funding strategy is its "no compromise" approach: the organisation will only fund sports which it believes demonstrate Olympic medal-winning potential. That rule has been applied to summer sports for a while, but last week UK Sport extended it to winter sports for the first time.

Skeleton, curling, women's bobsleigh and short-track speed skating benefited handsomely, alongside six summer sports. But skiing, snowboarding and figure skating were told they did not have that same potential, and did not deserve any cash.

The main gripes from sports which missed out can be summarised as follows:


  1. Medal-winning potential exists and has been overlooked. Alcott started the season ranked eighth in the world. Gillings has shown she is capable of reaching the podium in World Cup events. Short-track's best result in Vancouver was sixth and the sport got a £1.8m funding increase - Gillings came eighth and got nothing.

  2. UK Sport should consider mass-participation sports like skiing in a different light to sports like skeleton, which attract few recreational participants.

  3. Being judged on the same criteria as summer sports would be fine, but summer sports were given more than four years of additional funding before this judging took place. It is not a fair comparison.

"I understand that it's difficult and that there will always be some sport complaining," said Alcott. "But whether skeleton needs that amount of money [now £3.4m, up £1.3m] and what programme changes they make, I'll be interested to see. And how does cycling need more than £20m? [Cycling is receiving in excess of £26m to prepare for London 2012.] I'm not saying take their funding away, but give us £1m of that! One twenty-sixth.

"When UK Sport evaluate athletes they look at your age and how long you've been around, but they don't look at your journey. They don't look at the fact that my mum passed away after Torino 2006 and I spent time in a wheelchair with a broken ankle. And they won't look at this, either," she added, gesturing towards the enormous, jagged scar on her broken leg.

"It's hard not to take it personally. I'm quite emotional at the moment with the crash and then to have this, within a week of that horrible experience, is far from ideal.

"I'm trying to be the best in the world. I was ranked eighth at the start of the season and obviously that'll change with this injury but the support wasn't there. I know they feel like they were supporting me but, compared to the support the Austrians and Germans get, it's nothing.

"I was racing for Britain but skiing with the Canadian team and that was a great set-up, it's different having team-mates to fight against day in, day out. Without UK Sport I don't know how we'll do it next year."

Got a business head on your shoulders? Zoe Gillings wants to hear from you. Photo: AFP

UK Sport may have shut the door on these sports, but it hasn't locked it. "As with any non-funded Olympic sport, their ongoing performance will be assessed annually and they are able to be funded in the future if they meet the criteria set out in UK Sport's investment strategy," said the funding body in a statement.

For now, athletes face a battle to find funding elsewhere - as they have done throughout their careers. If both Alcott and Gillings, prior recipients of UK Sport cash, had to top it up substantially, imagine the hardships faced by the legion of athletes who never enjoyed that support.

"We didn't really think there was any money coming. It was more the hope," explained David King, who forms Britain's foremost pairs figure skating duo with Stacey Kemp. The two live and train in Poland but, in the wake of the announcement, are now moving back to Britain in an attempt to earn cash by coaching youngsters.

"If we wanted to contend at the next Olympics, UK Sport had to come through for us. We were the first British pairs skating team at an Olympics for 16 years and that was without any money. We were the only pairs team in Vancouver without a wage, let alone travel and coaching costs paid. Now we're told that to get funding, we've got to try to get a medal with no money."

The duo, plus Alcott, Gillings and the rest, are now drumming up what support they can elsewhere. Levels of enthusiasm and optimism vary.

"With the downturn that's happened, there are no companies out there that want to sponsor us, because they need to be making money first," is 26-year-old King's view. "As it stands, if we can't find sponsors there's no way we're making Sochi. If you're an athlete you're classed as a second-rate citizen at the moment."

Gillings has decided that if no companies are going to back her, she may as well set one up herself. She has already sent hopeful tweets in the direction of Dragons' Den star Peter Jones, despite admitting she hasn't the slightest business experience.

"My plan now is to turn entrepreneur," she told me. "I'm going to start up a business at the same time as training and competing. I don't know if anyone reading this has any ideas but I'm searching for a mentor in the business world to help me out, I've got a few ideas for different businesses to start up in the winter sports market.

"If I can get that going it'll be a steady stream of money. I don't really have much choice. I've had a couple of tears, by myself in my bedroom."

Alcott has plenty of time to chew over her options, with the injury expected to keep her out of action for at least a year.

"I've got 12 months out so there's an opportunity to get some jobs," she said. "We've got an idea to take a ski machine in the back of the car and let people have a go at skiing. I've been so lucky to be in this sport my whole life, but there are some people who've never had the chance to try it.

"But if I make this physical and emotional comeback, I want there to be the support there for me to be able to ski. It's really sad. This is my future and I worked really hard for it - it'll be traumatic if I fight to get back from this and there's no programme.

"Then what's the point?"

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Whilst I don't have any great sympathy with Alcott's funding withdrawal it seems absurd that that that money is not going to be directed at someone younger and this is all very shortsighted. It take 15-20 years to get to the top in winter sports and reviewing the funding each year as quoted is pointless.Perhaps UK Sport should be more honest and withdraw the funding for the foreseeable future. Why would any of these athletes want to stand for the National Anthem when they are treated like this?

  • Comment number 2.

    Skiing as a mass participant sport is perhaps a little unfair, I would suggest it requires a fair bit of cash! The same could be argued of equestrian but at least we have a history of being quite good at it within our own country. The message here seems to be, UK sport as being very shortsighted with their cash in awarding only groups that have won medals or have a potential of doing so. Surely the fact that these teams/ individuals have put themselves in that position means they deserve the extra money? Success tends to breed success like it or not and it would seem to be a poor decision to divert that cash based on hope that someones going to overperform.

  • Comment number 3.

    People can criticise UK Sport all they like but ultimately providing funding to sports that have won medals or ones that show enormous potential has reaped huge rewards - the fact Britain finished 4th in Beijing 08 is testamount to this.

    Yes funding decisions are harsh on some, but you can't make decisions on emotion, you have to make them so that the funding maximising the number of medals won.

    The aim is really about Britain winning a hatful of medals in 2012. The long term reality is that, like alot of other government funding, sport will face heavy cuts at elite level post 2012.

  • Comment number 4.

    The thing I find remarkable is that UKsport do not fund ice hockey at all. The GB Ice hockey team is ranked in the top 25 in the world plus ice hockey is Britains biggest and most popular indoor sport. Ice Hockey is the best sport and it could be so big in the UK but it needs govenment funding to progress

  • Comment number 5.

    At the risk of sounding harsh.... boo hoo! Welcome to the life of one of the thousands of young racing drivers for instance, who have never received a penny from anyone (despite having two British world champions in the past 3 years) and have to find hundreds of thousands of pounds day in day out, year in year out, just to compete at the smallest levels of Motorsport. Yeh it sucks, but just as in the recent case with Alek Bogdanovic in Tennis, if your not going to succeed even with funding, then your funding should be cut.

  • Comment number 6.

    This seems a very odd state of affairs. So a sport that has no potential medal winners gets it's funding cut which means it will be unable to produce medal winners. Surely as every sport goes through a bad patch it gets funding cut and then UK Sport ends up not having to fund anything.
    Is this done on a sport by sport basis or by event? It would seem a little unfair to fund a 1500 metre runner just because we are currently good at Triple Jump.

  • Comment number 7.

    #4 maybe but there are still 22 better teams above us including Italy who was slaughtered by most teams at Turin

    #5 but how many GB skiers and snowboarders make millions after they reach the top? None. So when you compare this to motor sports, it's not a realistic comparission unless you and all other drivers are willing to pay back their funding once they make the big time. I doubt many would want to.

    Hopefully with all the recent snow over the past few years, the interest in winter sport in the UK will rise and thus leads to a greater awareness of the different sports. We should not forget prasing other national teams for letting team GB use their facilities. They could easily turn around and say no, and concentrate on their own team.

  • Comment number 8.

    Canada funds its athletes who are most likely to deliver a medal. Perhaps this explains why we don't fund ice hockey.

    I'm sorry Chemmy but, like I said on the 606 thread, the taxpayer does not have the duty to fund failing athletes throughout a career of mediocrity.

    You mustn't ignore the results factor in the funding equation. Ed Drake, for example, does not look like delivering anything any time soon. Chemmy never will, I'm afraid.

    By the looks of it the way it was handled has been typically disgraceful. But then that's to be expected. However, when Chemmy argues that we should take away £1 mill from cycling, a sport that delivered us 14 medals including 8 golds in 2008, and given to skiing, a sport that has delivered us nothing at all, ever, apart from a host of also-ran athletes.

    We mustn't ignore that young skiers really could have potential to be fine athletes though. A small pot of money to give help to the promising ones would be useful.

  • Comment number 9.

    A discussion about sports funding usually generates more heat than light but this particular set of decisions does seem strange to me. Surely sports funding should be more than just about how many medals we can win?

    Personally if I was ranked 8th in the world and got my funding cut to zero then I'd move to another country in Europe that takes its winter sports seriously and tell UK Sport to stuff it.

  • Comment number 10.

    While I do feel for Chemmy, as she has undoubtedly worked extremely hard to get to the level she’s at today, my sympathy is sadly short lived. I have been following skiing for many years and regularly ski myself. It is obvious that Chemmy, despite her talents, will never reach the heights of her rivals. Let’s be honest about this, Chemmy never ever really looks like she will challenge the likes of Lindsey Vonn or Maria Riesch.There is an argument of course that says it’s the competing that counts. I prefer to hope that there are more talented individuals out there waiting to be discovered that would better deserve money being thrown at them. Whilst accepting it is a completely different sport, I can’t help thinking back to the likes of Seb Coe and Steve Ovett who got to the medals and made us all proud with sheer natural talent and brute determination. We didn’t used to hear constant excuses about funding holding athlete’s back. But I wish her well in her recovery.

  • Comment number 11.

    We shouldn't be funding any of these elite sports for the privileged. I don't see many BME or council estate kids in downhill skiing or bobsleigh. The people doing these sports aren't the best we've got, they're just the ones that got the opportunities.

    If someone isn't good enough to make a living standing on their own, then its not viable.

    I'm thinking of becoming a world class eater, but require funding to eat in the best restaurants in the world. Does anyone fancy sponsoring me to the tune of £100k a year?

    I'm sorry Chemmy,but welcome to the real world.

  • Comment number 12.

    JJF2506: So should we simply not have a 'Winter Olympics' team then. Some of our winter athletes have worked incredibly hard to get where they are, possibly they aren't the best out there (we'll never know that) but simply because they have had the opportunity to do a sport does not mean that they're loaded and don't need support. Your comments are crass and wholey unfounded. Some might say a typical response from somebody who has not got off their own rear end and made an effort to better themselves.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm not sure quite what I feel really. Cutting complete funding for two top ten athletes does seem harsh, particularly when it is an extremely expensive sport to try and fund yourself. I also agree that given a 'lack of success' we shouldn't be piling money in to 'nohopers'. In the case of Bogdanovic, he was ranked in the how many hundreds and certainly didn't deserve his funding, the ice hockey team getting funding would be ridiculous given how many teams are actually above them in the world rankings and how few teams there are below them so saying they are ranked in the top 25 is pretty meaningless. Sports like rowing, cycling, sailing where we have been hugely successful deserve increase in their funding and I would like to see many of our 'top track and field athletes' who continually fail or who are past their best have their funding removed or decreased. Given it is the taxpayer who is funding this we should be directing our money towards youngsters who show promise and don't have the money in the background with which to improve their skills.

  • Comment number 14.

    anyoldiron: We should have athletes who are capable of competing independently or not at all.
    Chemy has been fortunate enough to spend her whole life in skiing. My only experience of that sport is 25 yrs ago for a mates 10th birthday on the dry slope in Harrogate!
    I also thought sledging was brilliant, but unfortunately the bobsleigh talent scouts didn't hang round our side of Leeds much.
    I have made the best of the opportunities I have been given, but Winter sports are a classic example of the invisble barriers that exist in British society.

  • Comment number 15.

    JJF2506 Winter Sports are only a barrier to those who make it so. I spent years as part of the Army ski team and come from the roughest part of East London so if I could do it anybody can. I just don't buy that skiing is only for the rich, if that's the case then the ski industry in this country would collapse through lack of support. If you want these barriers to exist then they'll never be broken down. If a lad from the East End with no qualifications can get into a ski team then so can somebody from Harrogate... (Not exactly known for its depravity)

    Chemy is an excellent skier and if funding for 'Curling' (which incidently isn't exactly widely practiced outside of the Highlands) can gain funding then so should one of our bright young stars competing in a sport actively pusued by millions in this country.

  • Comment number 16.

    @JJF2506

    Bobsleigh?!

    A posh boy sport?!

    What a ridiculous assertion.

    Chemmy might be a nice middle class home counties girl, but Alain Baxter, the guy who was robbed of his Bronze medal in Salt Lake City, grew up skiing the dry slopes outside of Edinburgh and the tows of Cairngorm.

    I see your point but, let's try an avoid generalisations.

  • Comment number 17.

    JJ2505 - you're wrong, there are kids from council estates on the British ski teams. Sadly the lack of funding and sponsorship opportunities mean that it's incredibly hard to keep them there.

    It is also worth noting that without Chemmy the chances of Olympic medals diminish even more as without her World ranking generating GB start positions at the Olympics the team of four would be even smaller. I agree that she'll never win a 5 ringed medal but apart from Baxter in Salt Lake which British racer has ever looked like getting one?

    What makes winter sport training so expensive is the fact that training for most events needs to be done in another country and UK sport appear to be ignoring this.

    Oh and don't worry about the £20m that cycling gets, I'd settle for a small share of what Greco Roman Wrestling gets.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think they're doing it back to front. The successful sports should be using their higher profile to raise their own funds - thanks to being given free cash, that's not high on their agenda.
    Funding should go to other sports, with a bias toward those that are suitable for mass participation so that everyone can benefit.

  • Comment number 19.

    I've never skied and the closest I get to the slopes is the Snowdome here in MK but I'm really sick and tired of young people performing marvellously well in the most competitive sports and because they can't reach the absolute pinnacle being mauled by public and press, and in Chemmy's case having funding withdrawn. Andy Murray is another example of brilliant achievement being sneered at. 8th in the world from an English woman is amazing as I see it, and maybe the criteria for funding is wrong.

    Personally I couldn't care less if we win a medal in skeet shooting, archery or some such event with no large participation. Achievement should be measured with some nod to the overall population who compete or participate in the event.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think the shot at cycling is wrong, the velodrome will win UK Olympic medals. On the other hand are all of the track athletes who receive large funding ranked as high as Chemmy or Zoe in the world. UK sport is funding track athletes who can't even get on the podium at a Euro meeting, let alone a World or Olympics. Realistically come London 2012 UK may win a medal with Jess Ennis or Phillps Idowu but few of the others in the athletics stadium will be close to the final.

  • Comment number 21.

    Funding for sport is always going to be a contentious issue.
    Skiing, Snowboarding and other snow sports will always have problems with funding. Even though talent can now be identified and developed in the UK on slopes such as Milton Keynes, Manchester, Braehead , Tamworth etc. promising young skiers can only realise their full potential abroad and at considerable cost.
    Figure Skating on the other had has no such excuse and does not deserve any funding. There are 60+ rinks in the UK, at least 8 of which are Olympic size. There are over 13 million visits per year to ice rinks and every week 20,000 plus skaters, mostly children, attend Learn to Skate Classes in their local rinks. Millions watch “Dancing on Ice” and visitor numbers at rinks rise dramatically when the show is on. Yet in the past 10 years the standards of UK figure skaters have slipped lower and lower.
    We have no world class performers capable of achieving top 10 places other than the Kerrs in Ice Dance. The points based scoring system introduced some years ago clearly indicates that there are no performers in any of the Figure Skating disciplines (Singles, Dance and Pairs) who will even qualify for the final rounds of the upcoming European and World Championships in 2011. As for the Sochii Olympics , the qualification system means that the only representation Team GB will have is in Short Track Speed.
    Where does the fault lay for this? Clearly at the door of the National Ice Skating Association, the laughably titled, governing body of the sport. Recently, at a reception at the World 2010 championship, the President of the International Skating Union, Ottavio Cinquanta, admonished NISA's representative saying they needed to develop their skaters to a higher level to be worthy of staging such a high level event as the 2012 European Championships in Sheffield.
    Without major surgery and reconstruction of this failing Governing body, figure skating in the UK has no hope of further funding for many years to come.

  • Comment number 22.

    'At the risk of sounding harsh.... boo hoo! Welcome to the life of one of the thousands of young racing drivers for instance, who have never received a penny from anyone (despite having two British world champions in the past 3 years) and have to find hundreds of thousands of pounds day in day out, year in year out, just to compete at the smallest levels of Motorsport. Yeh it sucks, but just as in the recent case with Alek Bogdanovic in Tennis, if your not going to succeed even with funding, then your funding should be cut.'

    If you are a top 10 driver in the motorsport world you make millions of pounds - why does Jenson Button live in Guernsey and not his native Somerset? because he makes millions and pays little tax. Elite skiers in some countries do make a good living but its not the same for UK skiers.

    As for the Bogdanovic jibe, the bogster never came close to a top 100 positon let alone a top 10 - Chemmy is a top 10 skier. One has acheived a lot while the other has not.

  • Comment number 23.

    But to become a top 10 driver in Motorsport (arguably to get to F1) then you need to raise anywhere between 2-5 Million pounds, and theres certainly no coaching career post retirement (hence Nigel Mansell doing car insurance ads!). Some even make it to F1 but because they aren't good enough, will have to pay millions for the privilege every year! Believe me I know some drivers who have done things that would make your skin crawl, just to raise the money needed to compete. I'm using Motorsport as an example, but in reality lots of sports have absolutely no funding from an external body, and the competitors have to make do.

    Bogdanovic made it to 108 in the world in 2007, 3 years after his funding cut. Being paid £60,000 a year to ski was a luxury, you never know they may find themselves pushing even harder now to prove they are worth the funding.

  • Comment number 24.

    'and theres certainly no coaching career post retirement (hence Nigel Mansell doing car insurance ads!).'

    Well then Mansell should have looked after his millions much better then. Thats a lame example! He tried to build his own racing circuit in Devon a few years back so he must still have plety of dosh unless of course he mismanaged his fortune!

  • Comment number 25.

    What is most depressing is that we have been funding table tennis and handball more than skiing, yet by the UK sport standards we are never going to achieve a medal as they are professional and very competitive. We are funding loads of athletes and teams just to qualify for the Olympics once, whilst holding back top athletes in other events.

    However, why don't UK Sport apply these same models to more mainstream sports such as tennis and football? we are not likely to win, haven't won in years and they are highly competitive international sports.

    Also what can cycling spend £26m on? Surely theres a balance to be struck somewhere.

    e36 - I am a huge fan of motorsport too but you are not comparing like for like. Motorsport is not an Olympic sport and has many elite level disciplines if you do make it and you can compete till you are older. Skiing is a technical sport, which many wouldn't realise here but as a result you need to train hard from a young age and develop skills. Unlike athletics or British football (abroad i appreciate its different); you can't be fast tracked into it because you're fast or strong. Therefore you need 15-20 years training to become the best in the world not just 4 or 5 and sit you on a bike or put some trainers on. Hence needed more funding to respect this to make a realistic gain, Eastern Europe is doing it so why can't we?

  • Comment number 26.

    Chemmy - I think you and Zoe have been treated disgracefully. To be ranked 8th in the world is a fantastic achievement - and one to be very proud of. And this despite the woeful lack of funding you get. In Austria or Switzerland you'd be receiving a huge amount of support and backup. These girls need our support! They race under our flag - they're not a bunch of spoilt, under-achieving, overpaid footballers. Shame on you, UK Sport. Get well,Chemmy, and go prove them wrong!

  • Comment number 27.

    'What is most depressing is that we have been funding table tennis and handball more than skiing, yet by the UK sport standards we are never going to achieve a medal as they are professional and very competitive. We are funding loads of athletes and teams just to qualify for the Olympics once, whilst holding back top athletes in other events.

    However, why don't UK Sport apply these same models to more mainstream sports such as tennis and football? we are not likely to win, haven't won in years and they are highly competitive international sports.

    Also what can cycling spend £26m on? Surely theres a balance to be struck somewhere.'

    I think I can answer these.

    1) We are hosting a home Olympics, the initial idea was to get GB competing in as many sports as possible at a home games. A home games has to take priority as we are in the spotlight as a sporting nation for those 2 weeks in 2012.

    2) Uk sport don't fund football or tennis. That is the FA and LTA.

    3)Cycling has delivered medals by the bucket load. We desimated the field in Beijing, the likes of Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton are greats of British sport now. They deserve all the funding they get

  • Comment number 28.

    Godiva - In response:

    '1) We are hosting a home Olympics, the initial idea was to get GB competing in as many sports as possible at a home games. A home games has to take priority as we are in the spotlight as a sporting nation for those 2 weeks in 2012.'

    I agree but what happens afterwards? We have actually lost the next generation who were more promising than Chemmy due to lack of funding. I would prefer money given for junior development which would be more cost effective at the moment.

    '2) Uk sport don't fund football or tennis. That is the FA and LTA.'

    I was using them as olympic sports examples, however they do prove that wealth is not the sole driver to success, Motivation and dedication is also needed. It also shows that saturation can hinder the success.

    '3)Cycling has delivered medals by the bucket load. We desimated the field in Beijing, the likes of Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton are greats of British sport now. They deserve all the funding they get'

    Track cycling has but what do you spend £6.5m annually on? That would cover staff, upkeep of facilities, competition fee's and travelling and lots more. Remember the cyclists themselves are sponsored and Wiggins gets paid by SKY not UK Sport. For a sport in the UK such as track cycling with a low participation level how cost effective is it to pay £6.5m rather than £5.5m?

    Also it is even more excessive then Skeleton receives £3.4m for a sport which less than a few hundred maximum participate in across all levels internationally. On their current budget they already operate 3 men and women at world cup level, which is good representation.

  • Comment number 29.

    I don't think elite funding has anything to do with participation levels, its all to do with success. At the end of the day, people feel proud when a nation wins something, not when it participates - this is where the British principle of 'its not winning but participating that counts' held us back for decades. There is separate grass roots funding for sport.

    I also don't think you can pigeon hole cyclists into track and road. The Olympics has only 2 road races while it has a lot more track races.

    Together there are more cyclists in Britain than there are skiers.

    Finally at the end of the day with skeleton, they have delivered 2 medals in 2 games - the return on investment is far higher than any other winter sport in the UK. You might not like that analogy, but that is how elite funding for sports is decided.

  • Comment number 30.

    I drive my children around the country, along with countless other parents, to ski races on dry slopes. On the very first race we went to, outside of our club, both Chemmy Alcott and Ed Drake were there to support and encourage the children racing. They spent all day talking to the children and signing anything and everything. These two are role models to hundreds of potential athletes.

    UK sport funding seems to be creating a vicious circle. If you don't win medals you won't get funding, if you don't get funding you won't win medals.

    Skiing in the UK is not an elitist sport. Just go down to your local dry slope and see some of the conditions that the athletes have to train under. Some of the participants may have money but not all of them.

    When will this government realise that the more that can be spent on sport, any sport, the fewer problems this country will have.

  • Comment number 31.

    Is it just about medals?

    Really, is that all that counts?

    Do we not encourage sports in children because it is developmental, teaches them to be part of team and that sometimes hard work gets a reward. Does it not teach them about being both a winner and a loser and acting acceptably when both of these imposters visit? If nothing else it gets them off their backsides and doing something that gets them fit, not training themselves to be couch potatoes, to be a drain on the health service for the rest of their lives.

    And here we have a forum where several (self-confessed) couch potatoes get to sit on their lardy butts and say "Yeah....if they're not going to get a medal, cut the money....boo hoo....this is the real world....I've worked in Haiti..etc etc." and other such irrelevant drivel. The comments made just demonstrate a lack of understanding about what sports represent to those who take part. These are the crass and ill-informed comments of people who care about sports (other than football) for a fortnight once every four years. And even then only if they see a tearful Brit on a podium.

    Like number 30's comment above, I too have driven my kids to venues up and down the country for my kids to compete. And lots of other people's kids too, as I am a coach. All my kids have represented their country, one is in full time training for 2012. Completely unfunded, I might add. A lot of those other kids came from problem backgrounds and areas, and for the first time in their lives, they counted for something, felt valued, felt they had achieved. It turns peoples lives around.

    This Olympics is GB's chance to build a lasting legacy, and a willingness to drive sports forward in this country. We can grasp that opportunity or fail to.

    For the record, football IS funded. More money goes into funding development level football than any other sport, over 85% of it. I have no issue with that, as it is the world's biggest sport, but we shouldn't throw out other sports in it's favour.

    Almost all of our athletes won't medal. That is the mathematical reality.

    Do we want to support sports development, or not?

    There are an awful lot of things that I could point out that receive money, that I would rather see my tax £ spent on sports instead. (And for the record, I pay a great deal of tax)

    We can make this a games to be proud of, or not. Hospitality for visiting dignitaries will cost many, many, many times what these cuts total.

    I know which I'd spend the money on. And it needs money. You have to invest. I'm with SkiingParent 100% on that one.

  • Comment number 32.

    And sports development is linked to elite funding, as that is the shop window.

    Sports are only covered at the elite level on TV. If we don't fund the elite to some degree, we create a black hole for that sports' development that could, otherwise be a shop window.

    The more particpants we have in these sports, the more chance of success. The broader our base, the more chance of real, lasting success.

  • Comment number 33.

    What gets me is that Zoe Gillings met the criteria set out by UK sport to receive podium funding yet they still opted to withdraw it. Also, if slopestyle is included at Sochi will funding increase?

    http://www.ustomp.co.uk/read_blog/35/blog:-uk-sport-funding-freeze-hurts-snowboarding%27s-olympic-ambitions

  • Comment number 34.

    Why haven't we heard anything from previous British skiing and snowboarding Olympic medallists who no doubt would be quite concerned about this unhappy state of affairs ?

  • Comment number 35.

    Thank you @Lesdyxic for your comments, you're spot on!

  • Comment number 36.

    My sympathy for Chemmy lies more in that we should retain some funding for the blue ribband event of the games; I'm pretty sure complete funding wouldn't be withdrawn from the 100m athletes for example. Results wise it's harder to argue.

    Zoe though, I feel gutted for. Her results over the last couple of seasons meant she was a constant podium threat and beat some of the best in the world. At the olympics she reached the semi-finals and was looking in good form to progress to the final (and a 3/4 chance of a medal) until a serious knee injury that has kept her out for a year now.

    Added to this, with the likely inclusion of freestyle events such as slopestyle and ski half-pipe at the next games I hope this will be revisited if such a decision is made. Jenny Jones would be a hot medal favourite in snowboard slopestyle and we have some great talent coming through like Katie Summerhayes that have a real shot at medals in future years and will need funding to get there.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi All. In response to many of the comments given, what about considering the younger talent coming through many clubs and organisations in winter sports who only recieve little or no funding. Skiing is yes an expensive sport but is becoming more accessible, with young talent coming from a variety of backgrounds. Many small plastic ski slopes have produced fantastic talented racers and these small clubs with dedicated volunteers have helped keep skiing alive. They deserve some support.
    No offence to Chemmy, but money has been ploughed into her training over the years and the results whilst at times have been great, have not been consistent. Also why should one racer be allowed to have a separate development programme away from the rest of the GB Ski Squad? Surely clubbing all together would help keep costs down and allow her and other aspiring racers to improve and benefit from better back room support.
    Some of the younger racers who went out to the last olympics did rather well considering it was for many of them the first time competing against the world's best. Did they perform better than Chemmy and Ed when they first came on the scene? If they did, why doesn't sport England monitor the situation and provide additional support and funding when required.
    I agree that sports in the UK are all fighting over the same pot of money. Maybe some of the large indoor ski slopes in the UK which are commercial businesses making large profits, invested money into the sport not only would their profiles be raised through public awareness they would be helping keep the sport alive here in the UK.

 

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