With the Paralympic World Cup about to get underway in Manchester, Britain’s summer Paralympic athletes have learnt that they will benefit from £19 million of Lottery funds in the run up to Beijing as part of a new investment strategy unveiled by UK Sport.
The move sees an increase of over £1½ million on the Athens cycle in a bid to build on the successful performance of the team in 2004, which finished second in the medals table with 35 gold medals.
The Paralympic Investment Strategy is based on the same principles as that for Olympic funding announced in February, as Liz Nicholl, Acting Chief Executive of UK Sport, explained:
"As with our Olympic funding, we have adopted a 'no compromise’ approach to the funding of summer Paralympic sport. This is the only way in which we can achieve our high level target of a top three finish in the Beijing Games. To realise this, more money will be channelled towards those individuals and teams who have realistic medal hopes in Beijing. The funding will ensure our Paralympians are supported by world class staff and that the time athletes spend with their coaches will be increased."
The Strategy sees an increase in investment in talent development, with a 'fast track’ element designed to take into account the emergence of athletes with medal potential during the Paralympic cycle. It also includes funding of the performance development function currently delivered by Paralympic Performance Services Ltd – a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Paralympic Association (BPA).
"The funding package we have put together is designed to build on and reinforce the best performing sports, support those that have the potential to succeed and provoke positive change in those that are currently under-performing," said Nicholl. "This, together with the ongoing modernisation of Paralympic sports being conducted in partnership with the BPA, should stand us in good stead for the Beijing Games and beyond."
The announcement was welcomed by the Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association, Phil Lane, who said:
"UK Sport’s significant investment is a great vote of confidence in the Paralympic sporting movement within the UK. National Lottery funding has helped us to maintain our place amongst the top two Paralympic nations in world sport at a time of significant competition.
"Beijing will present yet another tough challenge, but we share UK Sport’s vision to deliver truly world class support to our leading Paralympians, to help them achieve their dream in 2008. Indeed, the funding will enable us to restructure and target the support we received more effectively. Despite this increase in funding from UK Sport we can’t afford to be complacent and everyone needs to continue to work hard towards these goals"
The 15 summer Paralympic sports will receive a total support package worth just under £19½ million of National Lottery and Exchequer support for the 2005-2009 cycle. This represents 21% of the World Class Performance budget of £98 million, and includes £4.8 million on athlete personal awards. 13 of the 15 Paralympic sports will receive an increase in their World Class Performance Programme funding.