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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:34 UK

British skiing hit by cash crisis

Alcott finished 11th in the 2006 Olympic downhill in Italy
Alcott finished 11th in the 2006 Olympic downhill in Italy

By Anna Thompson
Winter sports editor

Britain's top skier Chemmy Alcott believes her chance of winning an alpine ski medal at next year's Winter Olympics is being severely hampered.

Alcott is one of a number of snowsport athletes caught up in a funding crisis just six months before the start of the 2010 Games in Canada.

SnowsportGB, the governing body for skiing and snowboarding in Britain, is £300,000 in debt.

But acting chief executive Robin Kellen dismissed any threat of bankruptcy.

He told BBC Sport a refinancing package to resolve the problem would be finalised in the next few days.

He said overspends on a number of budgets over the last two years had not been controlled and had led to the deficit and the sacking of the previous chief executive, Mark Simmers.

Kellen said: "We are not going bankrupt. We have secured a financial restructuring where we have had support from a number of individuals and UK sports agencies who are backing the organisation.

"It allows us to trade effectively, certainly for the next year and on for the next four years."

However, 27-year-old Alcott said she was frustrated with the situation.

This is the most important season of my career. I'm at the prime age and I don't need these kind of distractions. It is the worst timing ever and isn't going to help my Olympic preparation

Chemmy Alcott

She told BBC Sport: "I've spent the last 12 years of my life preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"This is the most important season of my career. I'm at the prime age and I don't need these kind of distractions. It is the worst timing ever and isn't going to help my Olympic preparation.

"It has come out of the blue and I should not be stressing about funding."

The financial turmoil means Alcott, who skis all disciplines and has a genuine medal chance in Vancouver in February, and other British skiers have had to use their own money to fund summer training camps in New Zealand and Chile, where the best snow conditions are at this time of the year.

And performance staff, including head coach Mark Tilston, have been on half-pay since the funding gap was exposed in April.

606: DEBATE

Alcott, who finished 11th in the 2006 Winter Olympic downhill, said: "The training programme cannot be compromised if I want to be in the best shape possible. Skiing is a sport decided by hundredths of a second so I need to be as competitive as possible.

"It's really disappointing. Everyone who knows me, knows I'm not a whinger but it's hard to be positive when you're desperate and we are really desperate."

SnowsportGB, an Edinburgh-based not-for-profit organisation, is responsible for the British teams in alpine ski racing and snowboarding and receives funding for the athletes from UK Sport and the Scottish Institute for Sport as well as private sponsors.

It then channels the money into the skiers' training programmes.

Tilston said he had not received any assurances from SnowsportGB when he would be getting the money he was owed and had only agreed to go to the training camps because he felt morally obliged to do so.

He said: "We, as coaches, felt that we should not go on any training camps until our backdated salaries and expenses were paid in full.

"However, as we are fully committed to our athletes, and refuse to see them disadvantaged any further, we have ended up attending training camps, effectively working unpaid, though this situation is obviously not sustainable."

Kellen admitted the "challenging few months" had been detrimental to the athletes but he believed Alcott could still realise her Olympic dream.

He said: "It would be silly of me to say it hadn't affected their Olympic programme because if we had endless supplies of money then we would have started their programmes earlier and we would be resourcing it better.

"Yes they have been affected and it is extremely disappointing but I suppose it is better to have done it early on than mid-season and it's back to business now.

"I've known Chemmy for the last 15 years so I am very much aware of Chemmy's potential and her dreams and are desperate to make sure that dream and potential is realised. "



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see also
Alcott all out for Olympic glory
22 May 09 |  Winter Sports
Alcott sidelined by broken ankle
26 Nov 08 |  Winter Sports
Science of skiing
25 Oct 07 |  Winter Sports


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