Britannia truly ruled the waves and almost every other discipline at London 2012. From Super Saturday to the triumphs of Hoy and co. in the velodrome, Britain was in golden form this summer.
Eyes now turn to Rio 2016, where the question of funding cuts and Olympic legacy is hot on every coach’s tongue. Can Britain continue their winning streak or will they, like numerous host countries before them, fall at the proverbial first hurdle?
On Tuesday, December 18th 2012, UK Sport announced a record-breaking pot of £347m was to be distributed in the run-up to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Boxing came out the biggest winner with a 44% increase to its overall funding. This was mostly down to the successes at London 2012 of Nicola Adams, Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell, Fred Evans and Anthony Ogogo in the ring.
However, the biggest losers are Britain’s swimmers. After being the stand out British performers in Beijing in 2008 and bagging three medals at London 2012, their funding dropping by 15% from £25m to £21m.
UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl told the associated media: “It won’t be a surprise because we and they were disappointed that they didn’t perform in London. They will get there. It’s not a punishment – we don’t punish.”
“They are very disappointed but I think some of these sports have to improve their base, their competition structure, and drive up competition before they can really compete for medals at a world level.”
Rebecca Adlington shocked viewers and experts alike to seize two gold medals in the 400m freestyle and the 800m freestyle in Beijing. Though the question is: were Britain’s expectations of their swimmers too high?
A repeat of the exploits of Adlington and the other successful swimmers in China was surely too much to ask, especially with young blood in the form of Ye Shiwen and Plymouth-based Ruta Meilutyte exploding onto the scene. The former clocked a faster time than the male champion Ryan Lochte.
Is it fair then, with heightened expectations on home turf, that swimming should be punished, while other sports like boxing and rowing reap the rewards of their successes? Surely, with a funding cut, the prospects of British swimming can only get worse?
The answer is not that dogmatic and simple. It lies in the need for some sports, namely swimming, but also Judo in a sense, to restructure into a more streamlined domestic competitive process. This will allow for a greater breadth of competition amongst British athletes, allowing our elite participants to compete at the highest level, more often in a more competitive environment.
Other sports though like table tennis, wrestling, handball, basketball and indoor volleyball have all had their financial support withdrawn by UK Sport following their poor performance at London 2012.
With children inspired by watching other nations flooding to start playing the dynamic and exciting sport of handball, is UK Sport’s tactic of disciplining the naughty children in the class exactly the best idea for the development of diverse sports in the UK? In my opinion, no.
In handball, nations like France and the Netherlands will always have the upper hand as it’s almost a national sport in these countries. Pulling the rug out from under handball’s feet will only discourage the development of a sport, which saw Britain’s athletes thoroughly embarrassed over the tournament in London.
The hope is that with this turnaround in funding that the coaches and heads of performance for sports like swimming, handball and judo will see this not as a punishment, but as an opportunity. One in which, the whole of Britain hopefully will benefit from in 2016.Tweet