Farewell to the 'Plucky Brit' syndrome… and good riddance
23:22 GMT, 23 December 2012
With all the hoo-hah over the Olympic and Paralympic sports that missed out on funding for the next four years, one very significant detail seems to have been overlooked.
As UK Sport announced a record 347million investment in British sport last week, they also revealed an ambitious target to beat 2012’s haul of 65 Olympic medals and 120 Paralympic medals in Rio de Janeiro.
We have just experienced the most incredible year of British sport and now we want to get even better That should surely be celebrated.
Golden year: UK Sport a investing record amount into sporting excellence in Britain in 2013
More from Laura Williamson…
Laura Williamson: Pity 2012 feelgood factor has faded so quickly
Laura Williamson: Wake up Gary, or Match of the Day's old boys' club may close for good
Laura Williamson: Booth and Co aim to end golf's old school traditions
Laura Williamson: I won't be fighting in Rio but you could as taekwondo seeks new stars
Laura Williamson: Dangerous message that strong isn't sexy for women
Laura Williamson: As Sportsmail enters the ring with an Olympic star, Jonas shows being a warrior woman is worth fighting for
Laura Williamson: Kids have no chance when vile chants are treated like nursery rhymes
Laura Williamson: Wit is the only way to counter football's vile chants
VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
So too should UK Sport’s ‘no compromise’ approach to funding the British Olympic and Paralympic team. The organisation will only support genuine medal prospects, meaning some Olympians and Paralympians have been cast out in the cold.
The basketball, handball and wrestling squads, for example, which will not receive a penny unless they can show they’ve bucked their ideas up at their annual review.
Harsh Yes, certainly. But fair Definitely. This is sport we are talking about here. It isn’t reality television. It is brutal and it hurts like hell if you lose. That is why it’s such a delicious feeling to win.
And British sport is about winning these days, after all.
We’re being fanciful if we think we still exist in a sporting utopia in which every contest ends with the schmaltzy climax of a Disney film and the nice guys always get the gold. Elite level sport is not a pastime, it’s a profession. It’s about British Cycling’s much-applauded ‘marginal gains’ and a pragmatic, analytical pursuit of success.
In the past it has too often seemed our athletes have achieved success in spite of the system, but now it is because of it.
I feel for the people who missed out. I know how hard the women’s indoor volleyball team have worked and seen the strides the men’s basketball team have made.
I was upset when I realised I had broken the news to a goalball athlete on Twitter that the men’s team would not be receiving any future funding.
There was a long conversation with the father of a table tennis player who felt badly let down and confused as to the next step, having spent the last decade looking for bargain budget flights to far-flung corners of Europe so his son could try to win peanuts in prize money.
These athletes have every right to feel slighted and disappointed; to wonder about the next step in their careers. But they should not be surprised.
Benefits: British Cycling's approach to success has been a shining example to other sports
Their governing bodies have let them down if they thought it would be any other way.
Many of them experienced London 2012 purely because we were the host nation and their chances of making it to Rio are remote, to put it kindly.
We were utterly abysmal at most team
disciplines at London 2012, don’t forget. Why should UK Sport divert
cash from the sports that did deliver to allow people to spend another
four years chasing an impossible dream
It is far better to cut our losses and
concentrate on helping the next generation to build an Olympic
legacy, hence the 493m of money that Sport England will invest in
grassroots sport over the next four years.
Olympic table tennis, for instance,
had all of its elite level funding cut on Tuesday, yet its governing
body still claimed the ‘future for English table tennis is assured’
after a sport played regularly by almost 100,000 people received a 20
per cent increase in support for building participation.
Be inspired: Luol Deng is the stand-out star in a Team GB basketball team soundly beaten at the Games
This is not about class, as some have tried to make out. Cutting basketball’s elite level funding for the next four years will make little difference to the inner city kids who are basketball’s primary target audience. There is still potentially 6.75m of funding to come from Sport England for their benefit, including 1.54m to support young, emerging talent.
I realise these future stars need to see a pathway to success and have role models to follow, but I fail to see how watching a British basketball team getting regularly hammered would have more influence than a teenager seeing Luol Deng do his thing for the Chicago Bulls.
Neither do I automatically buy the claims about all the ‘sacrifices’ people made to reach London 2012, either. They could have been working from nine until five in a dead-end job they hated instead of pursuing their dream of being a full-time athlete.
The ‘Plucky Brit’ – eternally hopeless but emotionally heart-warming – has, thankfully, been consigned to history.
The UK Sport formula works. Elite level British sport is no longer about making up the numbers and celebrating getting to finals. We want to be on top of the podium now, thank you very much. It may be a brutal approach but it is also brilliant.
Transition: Gary Neville showed Laura behind the scenes at Monday Night Football
…AND THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK
Spent the day behind the scenes at Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. Interested to see Gary Neville agonise over whether to call Reading 'naive' during their 5-2 defeat by Arsenal. He thought it reflected badly on the manager, Brian McDermott, which was not his intention, deciding to highlight Nicky Shorey's 'poor' game instead.
At UK Sport's funding announcement on Tuesday there were three female executives alongside Sports Minister Hugh Robertson. On the same day, UK Athletics announced Jenni Banks as their new wheelchair racing coach, reporting to Paralympics head coach Paula Dunn. Small steps…
Taking the mic
Sitting behind the dug-out during Tottenham’s dull draw against Stoke I noticed fourth official Stuart Attwell taking off his microphone when speaking to the managers. Did he not want the man in the middle to hear
Performance of the week
Double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin and her horse Valegro ended a remarkable 2012 with dressage victory at the World Cup freestyle event at London’s Olympia. They scored 87.975 per cent, which is rather good.