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TX: 08.09.08 - Paralympics Funding

PRESENTER: WINIFRED ROBINSON
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CLIP FROM PARALYMPICS
Sascha Kindred surely has the world record and the Paralympic record and Paralympic gold once again in his sights, it's Kindred, not by a big margin, we don't care about the margin, it's gold for a third time for Sascha Kindred.

ROBINSON
The British Paralympics team is doing well and that was Sascha Kindred winning gold in the pool, to add to three golds won on the cycle track yesterday.

Peter is in Beijing reporting for us and he's been looking at how the British team is funded.

WHITE
The GB Paralympic cyclists are putting in a strenuous training session here at the Laoshan Velodrome, they know they have a lot to live up to. Their Olympic counterparts on the cycle track were the undisputed stars of the Team GB with seven gold medals in this stadium. And we were all asking the question - How has it been achieved? The answer was simple enough - skill, yes; dedication, certainly but mainly money, investment. So how well funded are the Paralympians? This is Jody Cundy's fourth Paralympics. As with the Olympic athletes he's funded by lottery money.

CUNDY
Our funding is worked off of performances throughout the year. I think to get on the top level of funding that we have - we have three categories - A, B and C - to be on the top level you have to be a world champion, that's pretty much it, that's why it's called a gold medal programme. So after that it's then percentages of times to get the B and C funding and basically just equates to a different amount of money depending on how good you're going.

WHITE
Do you mind talking figures - what does the funding do for you, how much is it and what does it enable you to do?

CUNDY
Top level of funding is £24,000 tax free a year, so that's the very top level. And then B and C are percentage of that.

WHITE
And what does that mean - what does that enable you to do - makes you a full time athlete?

CUNDY
It makes me a full time athlete, it means I don't have to worry about how I'm going to get food on the table, how I'm going to pay for the bills - the electricity, gas etc. - it just means I can get on, do my job as a cyclist and apply myself fully. So any equipment we need, any travel to go to training venues, competition venues, any specialist bits and pieces - we can go out, we can access those and not really have to worry about it.

WHITE
The money which athletes like Jody get primarily from the lottery is channelled through UK Sport and it's allocated in exactly the same unsentimental way that applies to the Olympics, that is it's based on a precise calculation of how many medals you're likely to get for your buck. Liz Nicholl is UK Sport's director of elite performance.

NICHOLL
Our approach is to identify the high level goal - the target. In the context of Beijing the Paralympic Games we're targeting second place in the medal table and we're assuming that's going to be behind the home nation China and we think we need - to be second - we need about 95 medals and about 35 of those need to be gold medals. So our approach is to identify the sports that can contribute to those targets and to work out the number of athletes that we'd need to fund to achieve those medals in each of those sports. So there are two types of funding that we allocate, one is directly to the athlete - that's called an athlete personal award - and there's another element of funding which is to the governing body which is to surround that athlete with world class support.

CLIP FROM PARALYMPICS IN ATHENS
It's a one, two for Great Britain as they come in. Let's have a look at the time. Is it within world record or Paralympic record time? Very close. It is a new world record for Nathalie Jones - three eighteen sixty eight, Nyrie Lewis second for Great Britain - so it's a one, two for Great Britain.

WHITE
Those two medals in Athens helped position GB's swimmers at the top of the medal table, beating even the mighty Chinese with a total of 52. That success also brought them more funding than any other Paralympic sport with £7 million. The man with the power to spend it is Paralympic GB's highly successful performance director Tim Reddish.

REDDISH
The programme funding we get is determined by a formula that UK Sport come up with based on your success factor, the number of medals that can be achieved in your sport and your potential to deliver in the future based on your up and coming athletes. The athlete personal award is determined by a maximum number of athletes you have on your programme, they don't then have to pay anything out of their own pocket for competing at major championships or competing and training overseas.

WHITE
When do you decide that a team member is actually holding you back, is not a medal prospect?

REDDISH
It's a bit of a crystal ball but what we've determined is your performance must be at least equal to or quicker than third place on the world rankings plus 2%. On top of that we bring the athlete and coach for an interview and if that athlete isn't maximising their potential to be the best they can be we won't offer them a place on the programme.

WHITE
There's not much sentiment in that is there, there's no sense of isn't it nice to be at the Paralympics?

REDDISH
No, no, no, nice - nice is what you do when you go out and have a meal.

WHITE
Before Jody Cundy turned to cycling he was a successful Paralympic swimmer. But as his performances dipped in the pool he became a victim of that ruthless policy.

CUNDY
As a swimmer from the very start of funding in like 1998 I'd always been an A level funded athlete and then as I got slower and slower or the world moved on, whichever way you want to look at it, I'd kind of slid down the funding rankings, so I'd go from A funding to B and then got to C. And when I made it to the cycling team I had a few months on C and then the first race I had was the World Championships and we won in a new world record time so the February next year was a nice boost to the funding as it went back up to A funding again.

WHITE
In terms of straight figures Paralympic sport gets considerably less money than the Olympics and the gap is widening. Olympic performance funding has more than trebled since Athens to £235 million. Paralympic funding only just over double from 14 to almost 30 million. But UK Sports Liz Nicholl argues the reasons for this are based on genuine costs not valuing Paralympic sport any less highly.

NICHOLL
It really comes down to how much does it cost to surround an Olympic athlete with world class support compared to how much does it cost to surround a Paralympic athlete and I think the other differences are that the Olympic pathways are far more highly developed, there's more competition so more opportunity for athletes to compete and it is more challenging for Olympic athletes to achieve a medal than it is for a Paralympic athlete. There are more Olympic athletes available to fill the pipeline and the basic cost of coaches in an international market is higher in Olympic sport than in Paralympic sport. So we do analyse all that and we have again transparency about why it costs more to achieve an Olympic medal to what it costs to achieve a Paralympic medal.

WHITE
And Paralympic coaches like Tim Reddish seem content with the fairness of the system and the obligation to succeed it places on his squad.

REDDISH
We have a responsibility to the public out there that buy those lottery tickets to give them a return on their investment. Sport is a business and we have to give a return on that investment. There's millions of pounds come in to the sport.

WHITE
Just as with the Olympics one of the hot debates is whether more of those millions should be spent in the sports where we need to improve.

REDDISH
It's a bit of a catch 22 but we have to be realistic in what we put in for. For example, in some sports you might need to fund a programme of athletes of 12, 16 athletes that could win you one gold medal.

WHITE
Like the basketball team?

REDDISH
Good example. However, in swimming you could fund one athlete that could win you actually three gold medals.

WHITE
And as he finishes his latest training stint Jody Cundy thinks that he and the other cyclists are likely to prove good value for money here in Beijing.

CUNDY
Every single person on the team bar one is a world champion and that one person who isn't a world champion has done a time that's faster than the world record this year. So to be honest it would be very, very surprising if we didn't come back with a hat full of medals.

ROBINSON
Jody Cundy who'll be racing on Tuesday. And you can get extensive coverage of the Paralympics by pressing the red button on your television remote control. There's also a daily round up on BBC 2 at 7 o'clock.

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