Britain’s Paralympians have been rewarded for their success at London 2012 with a huge leap in funding to take them through to the next Paralympic Games in Rio in four years’ time.
UK Sport announced the 43 per cent increase in funding for Paralympic sports – to £70.2 million from £49 million in the run-up to London – compared with a rise of five per cent for Olympic sports.
UK Sport said its goal was “to become the first nation in recent history” to win more medals at both the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games four years after hosting the Games.
It said the increased support – provided through National Lottery and government funding – reflected the “increasing competitive nature” of Paralympic sport and the growing opportunities for international competition.
Funding was announced for 19 Paralympic sports, with the largest increases for athletics, sailing, shooting, table-tennis, women’s goalball, judo, cycling and wheelchair tennis.
There was funding for the first time for canoeing and triathlon (sports that were not part of the London 2012 Paralympic Games), and five-a-side (blind) football, while boccia, adaptive rowing, swimming, equestrian dressage, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby also saw their funding increase.
But both archery and powerlifting were told their funding would be cut, while four sports which had British teams competing at London 2012 missed out on funding altogether: seven-a-side (cerebral palsy) football, sitting volleyball, wheelchair fencing and men’s goalball.
David Clarke, Britain’s five-a-side captain at London 2012, who announced his retirement from the sport after the Games, told his Twitter followers that it was “a proud day for blind football in Great Britain”.
One of his former team-mates, Keryn Seal, tweeted: “Today is a great day for blind football. Tonight I’ll be raising a glass to all the people who’ve brought us to this point.”
Robin Williams, another of the stars of Britain’s five-a-side team, added: “What a momentous, incredible, fantastic day for us and our sport. All of those words in one.”
Jeff Davis, performance manager of Paralympic football, said the money would enable blind football to “make the leap from part-time status to a full-time element”, although the FA has not yet been able to clarify exactly what this will mean.
Kylie Grimes, a member of the wheelchair rugby team that finished fifth in London, tweeted that her sport’s increased funding was the “best news ever for Great Britain wheelchair rugby”.
Martine Wright, who had won a BBC Sports Personality of the Year award only two days before the funding levels were announced, said she was “shocked” by the decision on her sport of sitting volleyball, but also tweeted: “This is the time to be positive about funding. Decisions have been made, so we need to think we’ve done it before and we will do it again!!”
Justin Phillips, a member of the men’s team that finished eighth at London 2012, tweeted that sitting volleyball was one the most watched sports at London 2012, and added: “Legacy? What legacy? A lot of people’s lives and dreams left devastated. UK Sport have a lot of explaining to do.”
Fencer Gemma Collis tweeted that she was “gutted” to hear that her sport had lost all of its UK Sport funding, but added: “Going to be really hard, but determined to still make it to Rio.”
Her team-mate David Heaton added: “Oh well, looks like we will be shaking buckets for a while!!”
And another fencing team-mate, Craig McCann, tweeted: “Life just got very hard but fighting is what I do!”
The British Paralympic Association said the extra funding would help with its goal of ensuring London 2012 was “a springboard onto greater things”, and said it was “delighted that the strong performance of the Paralympics GB team in London has acted as the catalyst” for the money.
But a BPA spokeswoman warned of an “increasing level of sophistication and investment” in Paralympic sport by other nations and that London 2012 had showed “just how tough the competition is getting”.
Hugh Robertson, the Conservative sports minister, said the “significant increase for Paralympic sports reflects on the extraordinary success and achievements of our Paralympic athletes this summer”.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com