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Exclusive: As UK Sport"s record 355m investment in British athletes begins, Sportsmail speaks to those who have already seen gold from the…

EXCLUSIVE: As UK Sport's record 355m investment in British athletes begins, Sportsmail speaks to those who have already seen gold from the funding boost

, in which Great Britain won 65 Olympic medals and 120 at the Paralympics and finished third in the medals table in both events, but British sport has aimed high since National Lottery funding was introduced in 1997. It is hard to believe Britain won just one gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Joy: The Olympic Parade which celebrated all the British success during the Olympics and Paralympics

Joy: The Olympic Parade which celebrated all the British success during the Olympics and Paralympics

Glory boys: Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the only GB gold medalists in Atlanta

Glory boys: Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the only GB gold medalists in Atlanta

Here, some of the athletes who have benefited from UK Sport funding tell Sportsmail exactly what it has meant to them…

Sir Ben Ainslie, 36
Four-time Olympic gold medallist, sailing

‘Trying to become the first nation to better our performance after a home Olympics is a fantastic goal. For me, it shows just how far British sport has come.

‘I’m not thinking about Rio right now because I’m in San Francisco with my America’s Cup team but you never know – it’s still a few years away.

History: Ben Ainslie won a record fourth sailing gold medal after a titanic battle in London

History: Ben Ainslie won a record fourth sailing gold medal after a titanic battle in London

'I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made in my career so far and I’ll definitely be in Brazil in some capacity, even if I’m not racing.

Sir: Ainslee was knighted for his heroics

Sir: Ainslee was knighted for his heroics

‘I started receiving funding in 1997. I went to my first Olympics in 1996 and won a silver medal, but we didn’t do very well as a team. We won just one gold medal – in rowing, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent in the men’s coxless pair. It was a pretty poor performance overall.

‘Then UK Sport funding came in and I think, straight away, you could see a big change in the way we were able to train. We enjoyed a big jump up the medal table in Sydney (from 36th to 10th) and that continued all the way to London.

‘British sport became more
professional, but the rest of the world upped their game as well. When I
started travelling to compete internationally most people were sleeping
in tents or in the back of their cars and trying to hold down jobs as
well as training.

'There
were very few full-time athletes. I think that’ s been the biggest
change: we have always had the passion but we simply didn’t have the
time to train and recover properly.

‘I
was lucky because I was still studying, but I relied on my parents an
awful lot. I’m sure they were very relieved when funding came on, as a
lot of parents must have been.

‘The
medical support has been unbelievable. I had a back injury six months
before London and it really was a difficult time. I had to have surgery
and a lot of physio but the support I received was phenomenal. It made a
huge difference to me and my chances of winning that gold medal.

‘Could I have achieved what I did without funding It’s a difficult one. I was fortunate in that I had success early on and was able to attract commercial sponsors, but I couldn’t have done it without the coaching and medical support there in the background.

'It was about setting up a long-term strategy to win medals and they certainly got the right people and the right strategy to do that.’

Perri Shakes-Drayton, 24. Double European indoor champion, athletics

‘It meant a lot to win two gold medals at the European Indoor Championships (in the 400m and 4 x 400m relay) in Gothenburg. You train to win medals and to be a champion was even better.

'The training that I’ve done and any doubts I may have had have gone away. I can do it and I want more. It gave me that confidence that I am as good as the rest of the girls and I want to maintain it.

Champion: Perri Shakes-Drayton won gold in the Women's 400m at the European Indoor Athletics

Champion: Perri Shakes-Drayton won gold in the Women's 400m at the European Indoor Athletics

‘It meant a lot after the Olympics. I finished on a high and I kept running close to my personal best but it was a disappointment (failing to make the final of the 400m hurdles). But rewards will come. The European titles have put the Games behind me. It’s a good feeling.

‘The 400 metres isn’t my event and hopefully I can transfer that speeds to the hurdles now. I enjoy them – there is a lot more to think about, but I haven’t achieved what I want to do yet over the hurdles.

'I’m not saying “bye” to them yet. Hurdling comes naturally now. I see a hurdle and I know how to attack it.

‘I want to come home with a medal from the World Championships in Moscow in August. I want one and I have to win one. That’s my aim.

Pedigree: The British quarter cruised to victory in the Women 4 x 400m relay

Pedigree: The British quarter cruised to victory in the Women 4 x 400m relay

‘Chris Zah has been my only coach, for the past 11 years. He took me from the grass roots to the world-class athlete I am today. It’s not really common for that to happen, but we’ve grown as a team and learnt together.

‘We’ll stay in Mile End, not move to Loughborough. We’ll stay in that gritty, crusty gym in east London because it’s working for us. It’s a good set up and I’ m not going anywhere for the moment.

‘National Lottery funding just makes life so much easier for me. The money I receive in support helps with training camps – I’m going to Daytona in Florida for a month on April 2.

I don’t take it for granted because it makes life so much more stress-free. All I have to do is worry about getting to training on time and being the athlete that I have to be to achieve my goals.’

Becky James, 21. Double world champion, track cycling.

‘I couldn’t have made my career without Lottery funding, I’ve had it since I was 15 and it’s been a huge support for me. Without it, I couldn’t make a career out of cycling because women get paid differently to men if, say, I was on a road team.

'It gives you such a lift when you first get on the programme and you become part of British Cycling, too. It’s been a great help.

‘I’m sure I wouldn’t be a double World Champion if I had a part-time job. I worked until I left home – I used to work in a kitchen doing all the food prep and washing up, which wasn’t the most glamorous job. Then I did a bit of waitressing and then I worked in a cake shop for two years in Abergavenny – serving coffee and cakes. It probably wasn’t the most productive thing to do for my sport, but it was fun.’

Double: Becky James won two gold medals at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland

Double: Becky James won two gold medals at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland

Funding: UK Sport have been a key part of James' immediate success

Funding: UK Sport have been a key part of James' immediate success

Quillan Isidore, 16, joined UK Sport’s World Class Performance Programme as a Development athlete in November 2012 after winning the Boys Under-16 category at the UCI BMX World Championships in Birmingham last May.

Winner: James with her gold medal in the individual sprint

Winner: James with her gold medal in the individual sprint

‘I always looked up to people in the GB team and wished I could be one of them. It was a dream when I made it onto the Olympic development programme for BMX because there are only five of us: four boys and one girl. It’s really good when we all go away for training – that’s what I want to live my life like but I’m still at school so I have to be patient. But I’m proud to represent the British team and follow in the steps of people like Sir Chris Hoy.

‘I still live at home in south London so I get a set programme to follow from my coach. I’m very dedicated – I never miss training at all. We’re not the richest family so I’m really thankful for the support.

‘You can get pretty bad injuries in
this sport so it’s good to know the back-up is there, too. I’ve been
very lucky so far, but it’s impossible to be injury-free.

'I’m
aiming for the 2020 Olympics but I’ve got 2016 in the back of my mind. I
believe that if I work really hard it can be done. We’re all working
really hard to get up the rankings and try to get GB three spots in Rio.

‘I
do think BMX is becoming more of a recognised sport. I got into it
because my friend just took me to a track in Brixton one day when I was
eight. It only had about five jumps but I just loved the feeling of
getting my front wheel off the ground. I got my first bike for my eighth
birthday and have been hooked ever since.’

UK
Sport, funded by The National Lottery, is supporting Britain’s best
athletes on the #RoadtoRio. Follow their progress @uk_sport

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Adam Gemili could fund coaching privately – exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: Rising British star Gemili ponders private route in bid for London stay

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UPDATED:

23:34 GMT, 25 November 2012

Fastest British teenager in history: Gemili

Fastest British teenager in history: Gemili

British sprinter Adam Gemili will consider funding his coaching privately to stay in London under the guidance of Michael Afilaka, who has lost his full-time coaching job as part of UK Athletics' restructuring programme.

The world junior 100 metres champion – the fastest British teenager in history, who reached the Olympic semi-finals this summer after training full-time for only seven months – is adamant he wants to continue working at Lee Valley in Enfield and carry on his education.

But the facility is set to offer Lottery-funded athletes only basic medical support after a radical shake-up which will see most services for elite athletes centralised at Loughborough University.

UK Athletics will announce this week there will be only eight full-time jobs. Gemili, 19, receives only around 13,800 a year in Lottery funding owing to his age and the fact he missed out on a place in the Olympic final by 0.04 sec.

Gemili, who learned of Afilaka's dismissal via Twitter while attending the IAAF's Centenary welcome dinner in Barcelona on Friday night, said: 'I'll still be training with him. I won't be moving up to Loughborough.'

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Paul Radcliffe loses Lottery funding

Blow for Radcliffe as veteran marathon runner loses Lottery funding

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UPDATED:

11:01 GMT, 15 October 2012

Paula Radcliffe heads a host of athletes who have had their National Lottery funding withdrawn.

The marathon world record holder has been removed from the World Class Performance Programme for 2013, UK Athletics have confirmed.

The 39-year-old missed the London 2012 Olympics through injury and has only raced one marathon since 2009, in Beijing last year.

Cash blow: Radcliffe has been removed from the list of athletes befitting from Lottery funding

Cash blow: Radcliffe has been removed from the list of athletes benefitting from Lottery funding

UKA have narrowed the focus for funding from athletes with top-eight potential to those who are major championship medal contenders in the next Olympic cycle.

The move casts doubt over the world record holder's future in the sport after a number of setbacks in recent seasons.

Racliffe had been on podium-level funding, the highest level of Lottery support, which runs from around 13,000 to 26,000 and is in addition to non-financial help like access to coaches, facilities, medical staff and training camps.

Several other senior names have also seen their funding taken away, including Radcliffe's fellow marathon runner Mara Yamauchi, veteran sprinters Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis, European 400m hurdles champion Rhys Williams, former European 800m silver medallist Michael Rimmer, Commonwealth 1500m bronze medallist Steph Twell, former world 400m silver medallist Nicola Sanders and 800m runner Marilyn Okoro.

UKA said a significant number of athletes had exited the programme as they are not deemed medal contenders in 2016 or because they had not met agreed performance targets for the previous year.

Dropped: Devonish and Lewis-Fracis will also see their funding cut

Dropped: Devonish and Lewis-Fracis will also see their funding cut

UKA performance director Neil Black said: 'Being part of the World Class Performance Plan is a privilege and not a right and athletes selected will be expected to fulfil tough performance criteria.

'We have identified a very talented group of athletes for support over the coming year and I am confident that we can build on the success of the last Olympic and Paralympic cycle starting with the European Indoors in Gothenburg in March.

'Accountability is at the heart of this programme and athletes who have not met performance criteria over the last year will not receive continued support. It is undoubtedly tough, but that is performance sport.'

Athletes who impressed at the Olympics have been rewarded for their performances with increased funding.

High jump bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz has been promoted to podium funding, along with world junior 100m champion Adam Gemili.

Rising heptathlon star Katarina Johnson-Thompson, discus thrower Lawrence Okoye and sprint hurdler Lawrence Clarke have also been added to the podium ranks.

Leap of faith: Garabarz is one of those whose funding will be boosted

Leap of faith: Garabarz is one of those whose funding will be boosted

A further group of athletes, considered potential medallists at the 2020 Games, have been given lower-level podium potential support.

The programme also includes Paralympic athletes and amputee sprinter Jonnie Peacock has been rewarded for his T44 100m gold with podium funding.

UKA Paralympic head coach Peter Eriksson said: 'We have had to take a number of difficult decisions in this funding cycle, but this is the strongest group of athletes we have selected to the Paralympic Programme since I arrived in 2009.

'We had an outstanding Paralympic Games in London and our focus is now on bettering that in four years time.'

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Olympic sports budget will be cut by UK Sport before Rio

What goes up must come down: UK Sport will slash funding for some Olympic disciplines before Rio

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UPDATED:

19:05 GMT, 14 August 2012

Liz Nicholl, the chief executive of UK Sport, has confirmed that some Olympic sports will lose their funding in the wake of London 2012.

The government has pledged to invest 508million of exchequer and lottery money into sport over the next four years, virtually the same amount that funded Britain's success in London.

But UK Sport's 'no compromise' policy means only those sports which can demonstrate they will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics are likely to receive any of that money.

At risk: Great Britain's handball funding may be cut

At risk: Great Britain's handball funding may be cut

The final decision will be made in December, following a period of review, with the new funding cycle starting in January.

The policy is expected to hit sports such as handball and volleyball, which had benefited from receiving host nation places at London 2012.

'We will not be able to fund each and every sport that we funded this time round,' Nicholl said.

'We will invest in every sport that has medal potential. The sports that are very likely to multi-medal will be our top priority.

'We have the same amount of money as we had for the last cycle.

'Success is costly because the more successful you are, the more potential medallists you have got, the more athletes we have to support to achieve the medal potentials.

'For handball and other sports that have been given host-nation places here, they have to demonstrate to us that they can qualify by right for the Olympic Games.

Rio dreams: Volleyball may also be affected

Rio dreams: Volleyball may also be affected

'If they can't be there, then they
can't be supported to achieve a medal. That's what our no-compromise
approach is all about, that's the approach that works. We will not
waver.'

UK Sport's policy places sports like volleyball in a Catch-22 situation.

The British Volleyball Federation, who lost men's coach Harry Brokking after the Games because they cannot afford to pay his wages, argue they need funding in order to stand a chance of qualifying for Rio.

The BVF received a shade over 3.5million from UK Sport over the four-year build-up to London but did not meet all their performance targets at the Olympics.

'There will be some sports that will not be receiving UK Sports performance-focused funding but they have the opportunity to generate income from other sources,' Nicholl said.

'Every sport has to take responsibility itself for driving its own development to a point at which we can identify that it has future medal potential and that we are interested.'

The number of Olympic sports has now increased to 28 with the inclusion of rugby sevens and golf in the sporting programme for Rio.

Good to go: Rowing is unlikely to be affected

Good to go: Rowing is unlikely to be affected

Britain won 65 medals, including 29 golds, across 17 sports to at the London Olympics, to finish above Russia in third place in the medal table.

While it may not be possible to increase the number of medal-winning sports in Rio, performance advisor Peter Keen is convinced Team GB can improve on their record haul of 65 medals.

'It doesn't stop,' Keen said. 'There are so many things we can improve. There are so many errors.

'It seems entirely reasonable that if we were to apply the knowledge we have got, do the obvious things better, we can be better than we are.

'I hope people remember just how good it was and how much we valued it and it is game on.

'That planning work for Rio is vastly better than it was six years ago, unrecognisably better – not just in the words written but the the quality of thinking, the aspirations it is showing to us.

'The most emotional moment of the opening ceremony was the Red Arrows flying over at the second the time ticked to 20:12.

'Look at how really good can be. We can go much further.

'I am absolutely certain that if we can reduce the errors and come together even more, those athletes will feel even more support and be on an even more stable platform and they will deliver again.'

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London Olympics 2012: David Cameron extends funding until Rio after record GB medal haul

Cameron extends funding until Rio after record GB medal haul

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UPDATED:

21:57 GMT, 11 August 2012

Team GB's record medal haul has secured funding through to the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Prime Minister David Cameron has
announced UK Sport will receive 125million annually to maintain funding
at the same level as the run-up to London.

The majority of the money comes from the National Lottery but Government funding will provide up to 40m a year.

Convincing argument: David Cameron (right) will endure Olympic funding remains

Convincing argument: David Cameron (right) will endure Olympic funding remains

UK Sport, the body who distribute the cash, had only been guaranteed funding until 2014 but after guaranteeing the extra money, the Prime Minister said: 'The motto of these Games has been “Inspire a Generation”. Nothing has been more inspirational than seeing our elite athletes win.

'I want one of the legacies of these Games to be our athletes triumphing in Rio and in future Olympics. Guaranteeing this funding will help ensure that happens.'

Sir Chris Hoy, who this week won his sixth Olympic gold, added: 'I am old enough to remember a time when things were run on a shoestring.

'Having these guarantees will be a huge boost for all the athletes aiming to win medals at Rio and proves we are serious about building a strong legacy from London.'

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London 2012 Olympics: Great Britain"s Robbie Grabarz to go for high jump gold

Grabarz can take Britain to greater heights as he jumps for gold

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UPDATED:

22:34 GMT, 5 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Prepare yourself for another piece of British jumping history on Monday. Robbie Grabarz will try to become the first Briton ever to win Olympic gold in the high jump.

Greg Rutherford became the first to win the long jump since Lynn Davies in 1964 on Super Saturday but none of its high jumpers have ever risen higher than the second step of the winner’s podium.

To judge by the qualifying competition last night, the contest for gold is between Grabarz and the American world champion Jesse Williams. But Grabarz, 24, was alone in clearing each height to 2.29 metres at the first attempt.

Jumping for gold: Robbie Grabarz is a contender to win the high jump

Jumping for gold: Robbie Grabarz is a contender to win the high jump

Grabarz was refused financing by the National Lottery this year because of his poor results. ‘It was no more than I deserved. I didn’t jump high enough, so I didn’t make the cut. There was no money in my account, so when the season came round it was a case of jump high or go home,’ he said.

He jumped high, to a peak of 2.36m.

‘It’s always been there but I was probably scared to apply myself 100 per cent. I just thought, “Why not give it a go” and then I’ll have no regrets when it all comes to an end.’

No further Olympic chances for triple jumper Yamile Aldama nine days short of her 40th birthday. Fourth for Cuba in the 2000 Olympics, fifth for Sudan in 2004 and now fifth again in the colours of her husband’s Britain.

No medal this time: Yamile Aldama missed out on triple jump podium place

No medal this time: Yamile Aldama missed out on triple jump podium place

She finished with 14.48m but the gold was half a metre out of sight, won by Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova at 14.98.

Meanwhile, Perri Shakes-Drayton gave the locals something to cheer in the 400m hurdles by beating the defending Olympic champion Melaine Walker in 54.62sec.

She was not the fastest of the first-round winners but to take such a scalp was a real confidence booster for today’s semi-finals. So was clocking a time only two-hundredths of a second slower than world champion Lashinda Demus, winner of another heat. ‘It was nerve-racking but I did what I had to do,’ she said.

Easing through: Perri Shakes-Drayton won her 400m hurdles heat

Easing through: Perri Shakes-Drayton won her 400m hurdles heat

Eilidh Child also survived to the semi-final as one of the fastest losers.

‘I don’t know what happened on the back straight. I lost all my strides. I just thought coming round the bend, “Just get your butt in gear and get moving”,’ she said.

A new golden age for British athletics was heralded by Super Saturday but clearly not for the event that figured most famously in the sport’s previous period of supremacy — the 1500 metres. Britain will have no representatives in the final of the event in which Games organiser Sebastian Coe won two gold medals in the 1980s.

Ross Murray came 10th and Andy Baddeley missed out by a single place and less than a second.

London 2012 Olympics: Gail Emms slams Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier

Emms slates hapless Adcock and Bankier after pair's early badminton exit

PUBLISHED:

22:07 GMT, 29 July 2012

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UPDATED:

22:07 GMT, 29 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier crashed out of the mixed doubles on Sunday and then found themselves under fire from Olympic silver medallist Gail Emms.

The Great Britain pair, controversially put together after Adcock's original partnership with fiancee Gabby White was dissolved, again failed to build on a superb start against lower-ranked opposition and went down 11-21, 21-17, 21-14 to Germans Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels.

The loss followed a similar result against Russia's Alexandr Nikolaenko and Valeria Sorokina on the opening day of competition at Wembley Arena and the world No 10 pair cannot now progress to the quarter-finals from Group A.

Out: Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier crashed out of the Games early

Out: Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier crashed out of the Games early

Emms told BBC 5 Live: 'We have funding,
we have great facilities, we have great coaches so we should be
expecting medals.

'That's why we have elite sports set up with the
National Lottery because we want to get medals.

'We have players who are
playing full time, training every day to be world champions and Olympic
champions so it's not surprising we expect medals.

'It's just about
whether they can do it or not.'

Adcock and Bankier had entered their
first Olympics with high hopes after reaching the World Championship
final at the same venue last year.

Early exit: Emms doesn't believe the duo were good enough when it mattered

Early exit: Emms doesn't believe the duo were good enough when it mattered

Adcock said: 'We got a good start
again but we're absolutely gutted. We did everything we could but that's
the Olympic Games, it can be tough.

'Devastated, obviously. We lost
winnable games. We worked so hard to get here.

'But we've got one more
game and we want to repay the crowd who have supported us with a win.

'We came into the tournament in the best shape of our lives but faced
two difficult opponents. We started well but couldn't keep the momentum.
Unfortunately we couldn't come back.'

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Sebastian Vettel backs Jenson Button to win British GP

Vettel backs Button to win at Silverstone… if rain turns race into lottery

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UPDATED:

16:21 GMT, 7 July 2012

Sebastian Vettel believes even Jenson Button could win Sunday's British Grand Prix if rain turns it into a 'pretty messy' affair.

The wet weather that has plagued the country these past few weeks wreaked havoc during today's qualifying at Silverstone, causing a 92-minute delay midway through the second session.

He's in there somewhere: Sebastian Vettel during qualifying at Silverstone

He's in there somewhere: Sebastian Vettel during qualifying at Silverstone

Phil Duncan F1 blog

/07/07/article-2170176-13F76642000005DC-254_468x311.jpg” width=”468″ height=”311″ alt=”Out of the gloom: Vettel powers his Red Bull round Stowe corner” class=”blkBorder” />

Out of the gloom: Vettel powers his Red Bull round Stowe corner

'We will have to stop the race, get the red flag out and see what makes sense.

'If it's damp, slightly wet, there is always more risk, a bit more of a lottery that things can happen at any time in the race.

'It becomes important to simply stay on the track, have clean pit stops, to be on the right tyre at the right time.

'But anything is possible. Look at the race last year when one section was full of water, and yet at the back end of the track it was completely dry.

'It could be pretty messy tomorrow. Someone starting P18, Jenson, could win tomorrow. We'll see what happens.'

Waterworld: Abbey was awash with standing water during qualifying at Silverstone

Waterworld: Abbey was awash with standing water during qualifying at Silverstone

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Euro 2012: Cristiano Ronaldo going home proud despite not taking penalty

Ronaldo says Portugal boss Bento asked him to be fifth penalty taker in Spain shootout

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UPDATED:

08:15 GMT, 28 June 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed that Portugal manager Paulo Bento asked him to take the fifth penalty against Spain.

He did not get to take his kick as Portugal missed two spot-kicks while Spain converted four of theirs.

It has been suggested that he demanded to take the final kick for the glory of scoring the winner, but Ronaldo explained what had happened.

Going home: Cristiano Ronaldo at Donetsk airport

Going home: Cristiano Ronaldo at Donetsk airport

'I was going to take the fifth penalty but we missed two,' Ronaldo said. 'It was just a question of me speaking with the coach. He said to me: “Do you want to take the fifth one” and I said “yes”.

'Sometimes I take the first, the second or the third. I agreed to take the fifth.

Ronaldo added: 'I expressed myself in the way that I feel. I think we played really well but to lose on penalties is always unfair and it's always unlucky.

'I hope Spain win the tournament now because I have a lot friends there and I play there and it will be a tough final for them.

Decisive: Paulo Bento asked Ronaldo to take the fifth penalty

Decisive: Paulo Bento asked Ronaldo to take the fifth penalty

'It felt very normal playing against Real Madrid players. On the pitch we are not friends, but outside we are.'

Bento said, when asked why Ronaldo did not step up, that it had been agreed the captain would come forward for the final spot kick.

'We had this plan and if it would have been 4-4 and he would taken the last penalty we would be talking in a different way,' he explained.

Ronaldo insisted he was going home with his head held high.

The Real Madrid star was not at his
best but showed glimpses of form and also missed a great chance to
clinch the match for Portugal in the dying moments of normal time.

He said in O Jogo: 'It's always
painful losing on penalties but penalties are always a lottery and the
one who has the best luck wins.

'It
was a good Euro. We played the four best teams. We're going out a bit
frustrated because we could have gone to the final but we were unlucky.

'I gave my best as I always have done and that's why I'm happy with my own contribution.

Dejected: Ronaldo watches as Spain progress to the final

Dejected: Ronaldo watches as Spain progress to the final

'We must be proud because we played well but we didn't have the luck we needed.'

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has called for one last great effort from his players in the final against either Germany or Italy after Cesc Fabregas tucked away the decisive spot-kick.

Del Bosque told UEFA.com: 'The players have played so many matches and they have to show their best in one more. It was a very even match but maybe we were a little better in extra-time.'

The match itself failed to live up to expectations with Portugal shading the first period but clear chances few and far between, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta missing the best chances for the favourites.

Ronaldo made little impact though he clearly worried the Spaniards from free-kicks, and almost wrote the headlines in the last minute when he was put through in the left side of the box but wasted his chance.

Proud: Ronaldo insists he is pleased with Portugal's efforts

Proud: Ronaldo insists he is pleased with Portugal's efforts

Spain stepped it up in extra-time and Portugal were grateful to keeper Rui Patricio for sending them to the shootout after he got down to make two superb saves from Jordi Alba and Jesus Navas.

When the Portugal keeper saved the opening penalty from Alonso he seemed destined to be the hero, but Iker Casillas responded with an equally fine stop to deny Joao Moutinho with second spot-kick.

Five successful spot-kicks followed before Bruno Alves – who had already walked forward for the previous spot-kick before being pulled back by Nani – took Portugal's fourth and missed.

It left Fabregas to fire the decisive penalty in off the post and profound disappointment for Portugal and in particular Ronaldo, who bafflingly did not take part in the shoot-out.

Bento added: 'I think we were the better team but we couldn't take our chances.

'Spain were stronger in extra-time but we could have won it in the first 90 minutes because we were very good in the first half and at the end of the second half.

'If I had to choose a way of losing I wouldn't choose this one but you have to lose some way, and Spain are a great team.'

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Sir Chris Hoy launches defence of tax affairs after receiving loan from his own company

Hoy launches defence of tax affairs after receiving loan from his own company

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UPDATED:

13:41 GMT, 23 June 2012

Sir Chris Hoy has defended his tax arrangements after it was reported that he received a loan from his own company.

Britain's most successful Olympic cyclist said neither he nor his company disguised remuneration and insisted that he takes his responsibilities as a taxpayer 'as seriously as I do as an athlete'.

He admitted taking a loan from his company in 2010 but said it was repaid in full in October 2011, adding that the practice is standard in most small companies in the country.

Fierce defence: Sir Chris Hoy has said he has done nothing wrong

Fierce defence: Sir Chris Hoy has said he has done nothing wrong

'The dividends that I took to repay the loan were in fact taxed at the highest rate,' he said.

'I saw an opportunity to buy property and with the guidance of my advisers I borrowed money from my company to do so. The loan was subsequently repaid shortly thereafter by declaration of fully taxable dividends.

'Everything I have done is as a UK resident, and is UK taxable and not offshore.'

Hoy said he felt compelled to respond when The Guardian published a story about his financial affairs.

His income-generating activities are organised through a UK-registered tax-paying company, and as such his finances are transparent and in the public domain, he pointed out.

On track: Hoy has come under scrutiny following a newspaper report into his tax affairs

On track: Hoy has come under scrutiny following a newspaper report into his tax affairs

Sir Chris, 36, whose firm is Trackstars Limited, has received lottery funding. This stopped in October 2008 however.

'I am very proudly British and my responsibilities as a British sportsman do not stop once I step off the bike,' he said.

'I take my responsibilities as a taxpayer as seriously as I do as an athlete.'

His unusual decision to speak out about his financial affairs comes after comedian Jimmy Carr hit the headlines for using a complex scheme to avoid paying HM Revenue and Customs.

Proud Briton: Hoy

Proud Briton: Hoy

David Cameron joined a chorus of criticism of Carr whose tax arrangements were disclosed in The Times on Tuesday.

Describing them as 'straightforward tax avoidance', the Prime Minister said it was unfair on the people who pay to watch the comic perform that he was not paying his taxes in the same way that they did.

On Thursday Carr bowed to pressure and
issued a statement apologising for his actions, saying he had 'made a
terrible error of judgment'.

It
was also alleged this week that Take That stars Gary Barlow, Howard
Donald and Mark Owen, and the band's manager Jonathan Wild, invested at
least 26million in a scheme run by Icebreaker Management Services which
says it works within the law.

Sir
Chris said he hopes the claims about his own tax affairs did not affect
'the British support I know I will need to perform at my best in
London'.

He will carry the Olympic torch into Manchester city centre after it travels from the Lancastrian coast on day 36 of the relay.