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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 17:42 GMT

GB duo carry Paralympic hopes

More than 550 athletes from 35 countries will be competing in the Winter Paralympics, which begin in Salt Lake City this weekend.

But Great Britain will be represented by just two competitors.

Russell Docker and Stephen Napier will both be competing in alpine skiing events.

Despite ranking among the world's top 30 skiers, Docker says that lack of funding makes it difficult for him to train and compete.

"I can make the time but unfortunately it's just finding the money to use that time," he told BBC Sport.

The funding the GB Winter Paralympic team amounts to a paltry 1,500.

"Without the funding, you don't often get the performances but without the performances, you don't get the funding"
BPA chairman Mike Brace

This compares with the 4m that was spent on their able-bodied counterparts.

British paralympic skiing coach Graham Peacock revealed the conditions that some of his team have to cope with.

"Two of my athletes have been training during the whole of last winter and living in a motorcaravan in Sestriere in Italy.

"I went to see one of them first thing in the morning and he showed me the build-up of ice under his bed.

"It is minus 25 in some places but that's the only way they can do it."

The funding for the the two British athletes is being provided by the British Paralympic Association.

Slim medal hopes

BPA chairman Mike Brace says the financial problem is a vicious circle.

"Without the funding, you don't often get the performances. Without the performances, you don't get the funding.

"There are certainly good athletes in terms of their overall performances.

"But they are not medal prospects at this stage." And he believes that funding will not be forthcoming until British paralympians are able to raise the profile of their sports.

"It is a question of coming up with a level of performance that we regard as a kind of standard.

"Then we can actually attract funding from whatever source to ensure that those performances are improved and have a broader base.

"There are currently only three or four skiers of an elite performance level," he adds.

The medal hopes for the British duo in Salt Lake City are slim.

But without further investment, the nation's paralympians of the future will face even larger mountains to climb.

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