Three of Birchfield Harriers’ elite athletes have had their Olympic dreams jeopardised after they were kicked off Lottery funding.
Former Olympic medalist Kelly Sotherton, Commonwealth heptathlon champion Louise Hazel and Olympic high jump finalist Tom Parsons have all had their financial support withdrawn by UK Athletics.
All three have failed to meet key performance targets in the summer and now face the prospect of having to fund themselves through to London 2012.
In Sotherton’s case it was no surprise as the heptathlon bronze medal winner from Athens failed to make an impact domestically or internationally after switching to the 400 metres.
But fellow multi-eventer Hazel only narrowly missed out on a personal best at the World Championships in Daegu, while Parsons enjoyed what was arguably the best season of his career.
Which is why the 27-year-old Brummie is planning to appeal to UKA head coach Charles van Commenee and believes he has good grounds for the decision to be reversed.
Particularly given the fact he set a personal best of 2.31 metres in February and cleared 2.28m on five other occasions and is in with an excellent chance of qualifying for next year’s Games.
The situation is less positive for Sotherton, who has suffered with a series of injury problems and who, at 34, is nearing the end of her athletics career.
“My goals, aspirations and intentions remain exactly the same as they did when I was on podium funding and that is to represent Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics,” Sotherton maintained.
“I am still training hard, with my focus on being at peak physical condition come July 2012.”
Sotherton had no complaints with the decision, however: “This news does not come as a major surprise to me and it is not a setback to my ambitions and I am very grateful for the support that UK Athletics has offered me up until now.
“Everything will continue as I had planned in the lead-up to London 2012 and this decision by UK Athletics will not alter anything in my preparations.
“I still hope to compete at the Olympics next year and, once I am there, I have every confidence of producing a performance that will do myself and the nation proud.”
Van Commenee, who guided Sotherton to Olympic bronze seven years ago, stressed the decision was simply a case of the facts not supporting the veteran’s case.
He said: “The main criteria for athletes to be on the world-class performance programme is that they have a strong chance to make the top eight in the Olympic Games and, given the development of Kelly’s performances over the last couple of years, that doesn’t indicate that is going to happen.”