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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK

Nicol slams Scots authorities

Defending Commonwealth squash champion Peter Nicol has criticised the Scottish sports authorities for awarding funding to athletes with "no chance" of winning medals while depriving him of support.

Nicol won gold for Scotland at the 1998 Games.

But this time he will be hoping to repeat the feat for England after switching allegiances last year, insisting that England could offer him, and his coach Neil Harvey, better professional support.

Having lived near London for the past 12 years, he qualified to play for England from May on residential grounds.

He insists he would have been delighted to be defending his title for Scotland, but blames Sportscotland for getting its priorities wrong.

"For funding to go to people who are never going to win medals makes no sense to me"
Peter Nicol

"It wasn't the money I wanted, it was the people - and to employ people at events costs fortunes," he said.

"I have a physio and couple of coaches at most events and that's thousands per event.

"The money just wasn't on offer, and the attitude of Sportscotland was another thing.

"I want it to change so that people get the right type of funding.

"If there's money available for winning gold medals at major games, it should be going to people who can win gold medals at major games.

"For it to go to people who are never going to, that makes no sense to me."

But Sportscotland defended their funding policy, insisting Nicol was offered every support available.

"Sportscotland is committed to assisting top athletes in their bid to become world class," a statement read.

"Peter was offered the opportunity to become a Scottish Institute of Sport athlete which would have made him eligible to receive a comprehensiverange of athlete services including physiotherapy, sports science and sports medicine support.

"He chose not to take up this offer.

"We are disappointed that Peter chose to switch to represent England without having responded to a range of communications that invited him to discuss how we and partner organisations could best assist him.

"However, we have accepted his decision and we certainly wish him all the best as the Commonwealth Games get under way."Nicol's move caused uproar in his homeland, especially considering he had only lost once in 67 appearances for Scotland.

Old adversary

But the 29-year-old stands firmly behind his decision, insisting that the English set-up is vastly superior to its Scottish equivalent.

Having recently notched up another British Open title, he is eyeing more success at this year's Games.

"I am looking forward to going to Manchester as reigning champion," he said.

"It was a fantastic feeling to claim another British Open title there."

"I can't wait to go back to what is a magnificent venue and go for anothergold medal."

Nicol might be competing for a different nation this time around, but his main rival has not changed.

Old adversary Jonathon Power of Canada will be hungry for success after losing out in the final four years ago.

Whether Nicol's passions can be stirred sufficiently under an English flag to retain the title is another matter.

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