Recruitment of athletes now priority

From UK Sport

UK Sport has announced the breakdown of the £6.5 million awarded to Paralympic sport through to March 2009, following the additional funds allocated to high performance sport by the Chancellor in March.

This investment brings the total funding in the run-up to Beijing to £29 million and includes first-time investment in a number of sports, along with a strengthening of existing programmes.

As well as building on the successful performance of Britain’s Paralympians in Athens, where they finished second in the medal table with 35 gold medals, the investment is designed to help sports in the early stages of their preparations for London 2012, where UK Sport’s ultimate goal is to move towards the top spot. A key priority now is the recruitment of athletes, to ensure that British Paralympic sport can be in position to meet such an ambitious goal in six years time.

For details of today’s announcement of funding plans for Olympic sports, click here.

Liz Nicholl, UK Sport’s Performance Director, said:

“In developing an investment package for Paralympic sport we have maintained our ‘no compromise’ approach which focuses on those sports and athletes most likely to deliver medals in Beijing and London. However, the additional funds provided by Government also allow us to invest in sports that, whilst not necessarily being at the level, have the ability to at least be competitive at the home Games in 2012.

“A crucial element now is the successful identification and recruitment of athletes. Without the sustained and co-ordinated approach this additional funding provides, there may not be enough athletes of the right standard in the World Class system to replenish numbers in sufficient quantity for 2012.”

Sports Minister Richard Caborn added:

“Paralympic sport is a key priority for Government and is at the heart of our plans for 2012 – the London Games will set new standards for inclusion and accessibility. The funding package announced today demonstrates that we are serious about supporting our top Paralympic athletes to compete at the highest level.

“I am determined to ensure that we continue to lead the way in Paralympic sport, not only in Beijing 2008 but all the way to the London Games in 2012.”

The new funding package includes:

  • Continued investment in the 16 Paralympic sports already funded by UK Sport
  • Funding specifically for 2012 preparations for three new team sports (goalball, football and volleyball) and an additional discipline (womens’ wheelchair basketball)
  • The opportunity to define and fund a complete World Class Pathway for every Paralympic sport.
  • This builds on the Paralympic Investment Strategy announced last year by UK Sport which committed to an increase in investment in talent development, with a ‘fast-track’ element introduced to take into account the emergence of athletes with medal potential during the Paralympic cycle. As Nicholl explained, the funding is subject to the sports meeting a number of criteria on which they will be reviewed regularly.

    “As with our investment in Olympic sports, the funding will be subject to certain conditions, some of which mirror Olympic sport, whilst others will be more specific to the Paralympic arena. The overall aim of these is to ensure they have appropriate systems and governance in place to maximise the return on the money, both in terms of medals and the longer-term standing of the sport. Sports will only receive their full award over the three years if they meet all the conditions within these criteria.”

    One of the sports particularly benefiting from the additional funding in swimming, which is receiving over £5.7 million from 2006-2009.

    National Performance Director of Disability Swimming Tim Reddish said:

    “British Swimming welcomes this further investment into disability sport. We will use this additional funding towards building a comprehensive programme focused on identified athletes we believe have the potential to win medals at both the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games.”

    Nicholl concluded: “Investing in Paralympic sport brings with it a number of challenges, such as the lack of significant competition during the four-year cycle leading up to a Games through which we can benchmark Britain’s performances against their main rivals.

    “Despite this we are confident that what we have put together gives our Paralympic athletes the best possible opportunity to maintain our medal table position in Beijing, and potentially aim to top the table in London although no firm targets can be set until after the 2008 Games.”

    For more news of UK Sport activities, including today’s announcement of funding plans for Olympic sports, click here.

    Photograph: Athens Paralympic medal-winner Jim Anderson