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Wednesday, March 4, 1998 Published at 18:07 GMT

Sport: Winter Olympics 98

British team plan to put money worries behind them
image: [ British paralympians show off their gold medals after the 1996 Atlanta games ]
British paralympians show off their gold medals after the 1996 Atlanta games

Blind piano tuner and alpine skier Peter Young ranks as one of Britain's two best medal hopes at the Nagano Paralympics.

Cross-country skier Richard Burt, who is partially sighted, also is in the running for a top three placing in Japan.

The two are part of the 21-strong Great Britain squad that includes a sledge hockey team, who are also an outside medal hope.

Together they will be hoping to improve on the team's respectable performance in Lillehammer four years ago, when they took five bronze medals.

But commentators say the funding difficulties which have dogged sportsmen and women in the UK are bound to take a toll in the team's performance.

[ image: The M-Wave skating rink in Nagano]
The M-Wave skating rink in Nagano
The radical shake-up in sports funding brought about by the National Lottery had promised more money for all top-flight athletes, able-bodied and disabled.

But many were left in the lurch when the original source dried up before the lottery cash came on stream.

Caroline Searle, a spokeswoman for the British Paralympic Association, said competitors were forced to bridge the gap with their own savings as they waited for the promised lottery funds to arrive.

With disabled athletes far down the overall priority list, many went up to nine months without funding, says Ms Searle.

When the money began to trickle through at the end of last year, it came just two months before the start of the winter Paralympics.

[ image: British skiers will compete on the slopes around Nagano]
British skiers will compete on the slopes around Nagano
"The two skiers Peter Young and Richard Burt got about £6,000 each but it came quite late, around about Christmas time," she said.

In the meantime they were forced to cover their own training costs - a situation which inevitably led to compromises in training.

Elsewhere money has been more forthcoming, says Ms Searle.

"Awareness of disabled sports is much higher now than it was even six years ago, after the Barcelona Paralympics," she said.

That higher profile has helped the British Paralympic Association secure major sponsorship funding, such as £100,000 from the communications company Racal. That lump sum has mostly covered the cost sending British athletes and officials out to Japan for the March games.

And more is in store, says Ms Searle, with British Airways, BT and Adidas all signed up as sponsors for the Sydney Paralympics in 2000.

Meanwhile, Peter Young is keeping his sights on the job in hand. A veteran paralympian who is competing in his seventh winter games, Young will carry the British flag at the opening ceremony.

The blind cross-country skier, who relies on the directions given by a Norwegian guide, is a proven medal winner, having taken bronze in both 1984 and 1994.

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Winter Olympics 98 Contents

Relevant Stories

04 Mar 98†|†Sport
Programme for the Paralympic games

04 Mar 98†|†Sport
Five sports that make up the Winter Paralympics

04 Mar 98†|†Sport
Japan prepares for the Paralympics

Internet Links

The Nagano Winter Paralympic Games

International Paralympic Committee

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