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Winter sports to discover funding levels for Sochi 2014

Feature - Is free-style snow sport the future?

Video: Is freestyle the future for British winter sport? (UK users only)

By Ollie Williams

British winter sports will find out if they face a cash shortage when funding for the build-up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games is announced on Thursday.

Funding body UK Sport handed over £5.8m for the four-year Olympic cycle up to Vancouver 2010, in return for just one medal - Amy Williams's skeleton gold.

A change in funding criteria should benefit skeleton, with winter and summer sports now judged together.

But UK Sport has said struggling sports may need "other sources of funding".

Alpine skiing, curling, bobsleigh and short-track speed skating face an anxious wait after disappointing performances at this year's Winter Games.

Peter Keen, UK Sport's head of performance, told BBC Sport: "Sports we see as competitive for Sochi and beyond will now be able to receive funding in exactly the same way as in summer sports.

"That almost certainly means an increase and, for some, quite a considerable one.

There is a real dose of reality around some of the snow sports

Mike Hay
British Olympic Association

"But we're very clear about the need to get sufficient resources where we already have the talent, expertise and excellence to work with going forwards."

A number of British winter sports teams missed their targets in Vancouver, and their future funding will rest on UK Sport's assessment of their potential for Sochi and beyond.

However, the introduction of the same funding criteria that have been applied to summer sports in recent years may benefit some winter sports.

The British Olympic Association has campaigned for an increase in winter sports funding, pointing out ahead of Vancouver 2010 that they currently receive just 1.5% of the cash allocated to summer sports.

The fate of Britain's alpine skiers hangs in the balance - just before Vancouver, they had to endure the financial collapse of their previous national governing body.

Skiing's various disciplines received a grant of £372,000 from UK Sport for the four-year period up to Vancouver 2010 - less than a third of the grant which table tennis, the lowest-funded summer Olympic sport in Britain, has received to prepare for London 2012 - and have been unable to deliver results with that cash.

"I think there is a real dose of reality around some of the snow sports," said Mike Hay, the British Olympic Association's head of winter sports engagement.

"UK Sport have very clear criteria for getting funding and there's no compromise, you need to get on the podium."

Jenny Jones
If slopestyle enters the Olympics, Jenny Jones could represent GB

Hay believes newer skiing disciplines, such as slopestyle and ski half-pipe, may represent a better bet for British medals in future.

But those sports have yet to be confirmed as part of any future Olympic programme, which will leave UK Sport - whose sole concern is Olympic success - loath to fund them.

FUNDS AND FINISHES
Sport-by-sport: Four-year funding up to 2010, and highest result gained in Vancouver
Biathlon £0 - 55th
Lee Jackson, men's 10km sprint
Bobsleigh £496,000 - 11th
GBR2, women's race
Curling £1.1m - fourth
Men's team
Figure skating (ice dance) £496,000 - eighth
Sinead and John Kerr
Skiing £372,000 - 11th
Chemmy Alcott, women's super-combined
Luge £0 - 16th
Adam Rosen, men's singles
Short-track £964,000 - sixth
Jon Eley, men's 500m
Skeleton £2.1m - first
Amy Williams, women's race
Snowboard £248,000 - eighth
Zoe Gillings, snowboard cross

Skeleton, which was awarded £2.1m in 2006 for the four-year Vancouver Olympic cycle, is one winter sport which can be confident of a healthy funding award.

Four years ago other sports to receive UK Sport backing included bobsleigh and ice dance (both £496,000), short track (£964,000) and snowboarding (£248,000).

But most British medal hopes - particularly in bobsleigh, short-track speed skating, figure skating and curling - evaporated at the Games in February.

The British men's and women's curling teams notably disappointed in Vancouver, finishing fifth and seventh respectively when both had been tipped for medals. The sport received in excess of £1m from UK Sport in the build-up.

"Halfway through the last season I was very upbeat. We went to Vancouver with two world champions and two world silver medallists," Hay told BBC Sport.

"We came out of Vancouver with a great gold medal, but the other guys didn't come up to the mark when we needed them to.

Amy Williams
Amy Williams won Britain's lone medal at Vancouver 2010

"It's very difficult if you're stuck in that cycle, with no money, to run a performance programme with the coaches to make it happen."

The Paralympic team will also find out their fate on Thursday.

The team received £650,000 ahead of Vancouver - £205,000 for the skiing team and £445,000 for the wheelchair curling team, but neither managed to win a medal and will be hoping that the performances do not have an impact on their funding.

Back in February, as the Winter Games got under way, British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan called for UK Sport to improve its funding of Britain's winter sports athletes.

"I really want to ensure that we have sustainable funding going forward, so that we can develop great pathways to build on a wealth of young people in our winter sports. There's so much opportunity and potential," said Moynihan.

"When you look around other nations like the Netherlands - they're not an alpine nation but they compete at the highest level.

"We need to build on that experience and lift our winter sports to the next level."

Amy Williams wins Gold

Sports Personality: Amy Williams' 2010 (UK users only)



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see also
A freestyle future?
03 Dec 10 |  Winter Sports
BBC unveils sport award shortlist
29 Nov 10 |  Sports Personality
Williams slides to British gold
20 Feb 10 |  Skeleton
Winter sport funds 'unacceptable'
11 Feb 10 |  Vancouver 2010
GB Olympic bosses to help skiers
05 Feb 10 |  Alpine skiing
British skiing hit by cash crisis
13 Aug 09 |  Winter Sports


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