Sports’ cash blow on road to Rio

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A table tennis stalwart says cutting Olympic funding to his sport is a “slap in the face”.

Torch bearer Ken Richardson, the Lancaster and Morecambe league’s development officer, has called into question the so-called London 2012 legacy as UK Sport announced table tennis would get no cash support in the run up to next games in Rio in 2016.

Basketball and wheelchair fencing received funding reprieves last week but other sports will receive no help, including table tennis and sitting volleyball, who had Lancaster’s Vicky Widdup playing for Team GB in London, as they are not seen as real medal hopes.

Richardson, who coaches around 100 children in the Lancaster district every week, said: “It degrades the sport in the eyes of the public.

“You would have thought table tennis could have got something to help prepare for Rio. The public perception of table tennis becomes that it is not an Olympic sport.

“I was a torch bearer and the whole thing created a lot of excitement amongst the kids and then all of sudden you get slapped in the face and told you’re not good enough.

“Where is the legacy for grassroots sport? It’s a real issue.”

Paralympian Widdup admitted she was “gutted” that her sport would get no help from UK Sport but said she didn’t envy those at the top making tough decisions.

The former Central Lancaster High School pupil said: “We’ve got minimal funding which will support a basic programme to get us to the European Championships in Poland in September.

“We had hoped to go forward with a full-time programme bigger than the one for 2012 but we’re only going to be able to get together once or twice a month.

“We maybe didn’t do as well as we hoped in London but I think we did really well considering where we were two years ago.

“With the right funding we’d have a really good chance of not only making Rio but winning a medal.

“We just have to prove to UK Sport we can do that, starting at the European Championships in Poland, but that’s the only competition we can afford to go to this year.

“If we had the funding we’ve had a better chance. We’re gutted, but there’s only so much money.”

Widdup, who hopes some individual funding will materialise in the coming months, has her first GB training camp of the year this weekend, but it will only be for one day, rather than two, due to financial constraints.