Tag Archives: olympic

Rugby World Cup 2015: Football grounds make up three-quarters of the venues

The 2015 Rugby World Cup… coming soon to a football ground near you (but at least Twickenham gets the final)

By
Rik Sharma

PUBLISHED:

10:58 GMT, 3 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:12 GMT, 3 March 2013

The venues for England's Rugby World Cup in 2015 have been revealed and three-quarters of the selected stadiums are football grounds.

Wembley, Old Trafford and St James' Park will host fixtures while the likes of Leicester Tigers' Welford Road and Harlequins' Twickenham Stoop have been overlooked.

The only club rugby ground which has been selected is Gloucester's Kingsholm, while the Millenium Stadium and Twickenham, which will host the final, are the other recognised rugby stadiums on the list.

Unfamiliar surroundings: The All Blacks could be playing at Wembley, which hosts six fixtures

Unfamiliar surroundings: The All Blacks could be playing at Wembley, which hosts six fixtures

RWC2015 Venues

Twickenham (Hosting 8 games inc. final, capacity 82,000)

Millennium Stadium (8, 74,500)

Wembley (6, 90,000)

Kingsholm (4, 16,500)

King Power Stadium (4, 32,262)

Amex Stadium (3, 27,350)

Villa Park or Ricoh Arena (3, 42,788 or 32,609)

Ashton Gate (3, 21,497)

Stadium MK (3, 22,000 planned increase to 32,000)

St James' Park (2, 52,387)

Elland Road (2, 37,697)

Old Trafford (2, 75,765)

Unless the Olympic Stadium becomes available before the venues are officially announced later this month, these are the final selections according to the Sunday Times.

The only issue left to resolve is whether Villa Park or the Ricoh Arena will be used.

But a spokesman for the 2015 Rugby World Cup denied the list was valid.

'That list is not at all true. It is entirely speculation,' he said. 'It is not the final list.

'The long-list has been in the public domain for a long time. The use of football stadiums was a part of the bid which was well documented.'

Leicester Tigers are particularly angry that Welford Road (24,000) is being overlooked in favour of Leicester City's King Power Stadium (32,000).

Larger capacities – and therefore the potential for more tickets sold – are the reason football stadiums are being used.

The organisers need an average
attendance of 55,000 in order to reach the 80million guarantee they
have made to the International Rugby Board.

Tigers
chairman Peter Tom had expressed his shock and disappointment at the
decision on the club's official website. 'We are hugely disappointed to
learn that Welford Road will not play a part in England's hosting of the
Rugby World Cup in 2015,' he said.

'Welford
Road has hosted many, many major occasions over the years, including
visits from South Africa, Australia and Argentina national teams in
recent seasons. It is home to the best-supported and most successful
club in the history of the professional game in this country and, as
such, we believe is worthy of Rugby World Cup status.

Snub: Leicester Tigers' ground Welford Road is being overlooked

Snub: Leicester Tigers' ground Welford Road is being overlooked

Selected: Newcastle's St James' Park will be used

Selected: Newcastle's St James' Park will be used

'That the organisers of RWC2015 do not think this an appropriate venue for its fixtures is disappointing and confusing both for the professional club game in this country and for its supporters.'

An RFU statement suggested the larger capacities and better facilities on offer at modern football stadiums led to the controversial policy.

It read: 'The selection procedure for the long list of venues took into account a geographical spread across the country, sporting and facilities criteria, levels of support from candidate host cities and capacity requirements for the successful delivery of a Rugby World Cup.'

Alistair Brownlee wins Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

Olympic triathlon hero Brownlee cruises to Abu Dhabi win by smashing course record

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

12:47 GMT, 2 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:12 GMT, 2 March 2013

Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee smashed the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon short course record on his way to clinching his first win since the Olympic Games last summer.

Wearing the colours of the Union Jack, the 24-year-old Yorkshireman looked every inch the champion in Abu Dhabi.

Having spent much of his winter training acclimatising to the warm Arabian temperatures, the hard work paid off for the back-to-back European Triathlon Union champion as he finished the 111.5kms pure power course in 3h20m18s – 29 seconds ahead of the previous record, set in 2010 by Dutchman Jan Van Berkel.

Winning feeling: Alistair Brownlee smashed the course record on his Abu Dhabi debut

Winning feeling: Alistair Brownlee smashed the course record on his Abu Dhabi debut

And Brownlee, who is used to the shorter Olympic distances and is in Abu Dhabi to expand his competitive horizons, was full of praise to the thousands of fans who turned out to cheer him over the line.

‘It is a good race to do for an introduction to longer distances and I would like to do more, but right now my focus us is on the ITU circuit.’ said Brownlee.

The young Briton was in fine fettle, coming out of the water in the opening 1.5kms swim leg comfortably positioned.

Riding to glory: Brownlee was on commanding form in Abu Dhabi

Riding to glory: Brownlee was on commanding form in Abu Dhabi

With a cycle distance of 100kms more than Brownlee is used to, pundits tipped the following bike section to be the make or break for the youngster, and it nearly proved to be true. After taking a wrong turn on the circuit, Brownlee lost ground and was overtaken by Dutchman Cesar Beilo – who won the Abu Dhabi short course in 2011.

Coming into the final 10kms run, Brownlee was nestled in second place. Having conserved his energy on the bike, the look of determination on his face was easy to see at the final transition. With thousands of fans lined up to cheer him on, the Olympic golden boy dug deep to make light work of the final run, bringing it home in emphatic style.

‘I was swimming very fast in the beginning, apologies to anyone we might have kicked on the way through,’ joked Brownlee on the Abu Dhabi finish line.

Top gearL Brownlee was in fine form during his Abu Dhabi win

Top gearL Brownlee was in fine form during his Abu Dhabi win

‘The bike was a challenge. I saw a sign on the bike course and thought that was where I needed to go; it was only when I got back on the course I realised I had been there before. I tried to pace it quite well, but I have no idea how to pace 100kms on a bike, but it seemed to go ok.

‘I felt tired towards the end, but I didn’t have to push too hard, which was good as it was getting hot; it’s a bit of a shock as it is zero degrees back home and nearly 30 here, but it was early morning so I didn’t struggle too much.’

Beilo took second place, more than five minutes behind Brownlee, with Russia’s Alexander Bryukhankov taking third. Egyptian star, Omar Nour, finished in seventh place, making him the highest Arab athlete on the day.

Event organiser, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), said that Brownlee’s win would be a huge inspiration to local athletes and it hoped to see more kids get into the sport because of it.

Amir Khan will fight in Britain for first time in two years against Julio Diaz

Khan will fight on British soil for first time in two years when he takes on Diaz

Olympic bronze medalist Anthony Ogogo and Khan's brother Haroon making their professional debuts on the undercard.

Mo Farah is asked by US presenter LaTonya Norton if he has run before after New Orleans half marathon – VIDEO

VIDEO: Have you run before, Mo US TV presenter asks Olympic hero Farah if New Orleans half marathon was his debut

Olympic champion over 5,000 metres and 10,000m, asked her to repeat the question and then answered tactfully: ‘It’s not my first time. I have done a half marathon before but it’s my first time in New Orleans.’

Sunday’s race was Farah’s second outing over 13.1 miles following his debut in New York in 2011. The Briton will run half the Virgin London Marathon in April and then attempt his first race over 26.2 miles in the capital next year.

VIDEO: Mo Farah is asked an awkward question by a US presenter

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…Remember this

No 1: Mo Farah wins gold in the 10,000m at the Olympic Games in London

No 1: Mo Farah wins gold in the 10,000m at the Olympic Games in London

No 2: Farah winning his second Olympic gold in the 5,000m

No 2: Farah winning his second Olympic gold in the 5,000m

Mo-Bolt: Farah and Usain Bolt swap celebrations at London's Olympic Stadium

Mo-Bolt: Farah and Usain Bolt swap celebrations at London's Olympic Stadium

Decorated: LaTonya Norton seemed unaware she was talking to a double Olympic gold medallist

Decorated: LaTonya Norton seemed unaware she was talking to a double Olympic gold medallist

Iconic: Farah performs the 'Mobot' on Team GB's open-top bus tour

Iconic: Farah performs the 'Mobot' on Team GB's open-top bus tour

Track Cycling World Championships: Jason Kenny wins keirin and Simon Yates wins points race

Riding his luck! Kenny wins world keirin title in Minsk after being reinstated into final

By
Matt Mcgeehan, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

18:23 GMT, 22 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:48 GMT, 22 February 2013

Three-time Olympic champion Jason Kenny won gold in the men's keirin final on day three of the Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk as Great Britain claimed victory in successive events.

After Simon Yates won the men's points race on his senior World Championships debut, Kenny succeeded Sir Chris Hoy as world keirin champion to claim Britain's third gold of the first World Championships on the road to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The 24-year-old from Bolton was second entering the final lap and rounded Maximilian Levy to triumph. The German was second, with Holland's Matthijs Buchli third.

Fortune: Kenny finished fourth in the semi-final but heat winner Francois Pervis was relegated

Fortune: Kenny finished fourth in the semi-final but heat winner Francois Pervis was relegated

It is his second World Championships
title, but first won on the bike after the 2011 sprint crown was awarded
retrospectively when Gregory Bauge was stripped of the prize for an
anti-doping infringement.

Kenny's win came the hard route.

In an event taking place in the
absence of defending world champion and Olympic gold medal winner Hoy,
who is taking a sabbatical as he weighs up his future, Britain were
represented by Kenny and Matt Crampton.

The duo were drawn together in the first heat and fell into the repechage after failing to finish in the first two.

Only one advanced and Kenny did so, eliminating Crampton in the process.

Kenny received a reprieve to advance
to the final after finishing fourth in his semi-final following a photo
finish, with only three progressing.

However, France's Francois Pervis was
relegated by officials for impeding a rider on the inside and the Briton
progressed as the third-placed rider behind Australian duo Andrew
Taylor and Scott Sunderland.

The Lancastrian found his form in the final and won with aplomb.

Meanwhile, Yates marked his senior Track Cycling World Championships debut with a stunning gold in the men's points race.

The 20-year-old from Bury rode maturely and impressively throughout the 160-lap (40-kilometre) event, which features 16 sprints, to claim a sensational victory in an event which could return to the Olympics in 2016.

He accumulated 35 points, to win by one from Eloy Teruel Rovira of Spain, with Russia's Kirill Sveshnikov third on 30 points.

Gold: Britain's Simon Yates celebrates after winning the points race in Minsk

Gold: Britain's Simon Yates celebrates after winning the points race in Minsk

Gold: Britain's Simon Yates celebrates after winning the points race in Minsk

Yates was in contention throughout but made his move late. He raced for one point at the 14th sprint and continued his effort to join the lead group, distancing himself from his rivals.

Five points in the penultimate sprint took Yates to within one point of the lead, held by Spain's Teruel Rovira. The lead group were caught with six-and-a-half laps to go, with Yates' main rivals brought back to the bunch.

But the Briton had the skill and speed to claim third on the final sprint to finish with a world champion's rainbow jersey at the first attempt.

It was a ride which will have left his coach Chris Newton impressed. Newton won bronze in the points race in Beijing in 2008 before the event was dropped from the Olympic programme.

Team GB"s cyclists win gold and silver medals in Rio Olympics 2018 preparations

Team GB's cyclists make a promising start to Rio preparations with bronze and silver medals

.

Two of the London Olympic-winning quartet – Ed Clancy and Steven Burke – were present in the squad which lost the world champion rainbow jerseys to Australia.

Over the moon: Great Britain's Becky James (left) and Vicky Williamson celebrate Bronze in the team sprint

Over the moon: Great Britain's Becky James (left) and Vicky Williamson celebrate Bronze in the team sprint

Silver service: The men's team pursuit pick up a second place

Silver service: The men's team pursuit pick up a second place

Clancy, Burke, 2012 world champion Andy Tennant and Sam Harrison, who won world bronze in 2011, qualified second fastest and were unable to overturn their seeding, finishing in four minutes 00.967 seconds, to their rivals' 3mins 56.751secs.

Australia led throughout the 16-lap final, even though Glenn O'Shea dropped out entering the final kilometre, leaving Alex Edmondson, Michael Hepburn and Alex Morgan to hold off Britain in the finale.

Clancy, who experimented with the team sprint earlier this winter before reverting to his usual discipline, said: 'It does hurt to lose to the Aussies, but it's an Olympic programme. It's bike racing, you can't win all the time.

'It's disappointing, but if you don't look at it so black and white there's a lot of positives.'

Clancy pointed to the absences of Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh, focusing on their road careers with Team Sky after their Olympic glory, and the fact Britain finished fourth in Pruszkow in 2009, a year after winning gold in Beijing.

Vicky Williamson (bottom) and Becky James (top) pick up the bronze medal during the women's team sprint event

Vicky Williamson (bottom) and Becky James (top) pick up the bronze medal during the women's team sprint event

The quartet were not quite firing on all cylinders.

'We had at least one set of legs in there that weren't quite on it,' Clancy said.

'I'm not saying we're happy about coming second, but we're not in a bad place, that's for sure. If you look at where we were in Poland, we've done a hell of a lot better than we did there.'

While there was a sense of disappointment for Clancy and co, for James and Williamson there was joy.

The 19-year-old Williamson was a late replacement for Jess Varnish, who has a back injury, while James was fulfilling second-lap duties previously occupied by the now-retired Victoria Pendleton.

Sprint coach Iain Dyer says 21-year-old James, who pushed Olympic champion Anna Meares close for Commonwealth gold in 2010, is in the form of her life.

Warm up: After a magnificent medal haul at London 2012, Team GB will be hoping to show similar form at the Rio Olympics

Warm up: After a magnificent medal haul at London 2012, Team GB will be hoping to show similar form at the Rio Olympics

As if to prove it, James allowed a gap to open up by going up the banking coming into the changeover to allow her to accelerate into her lap.

The technique was devised in the last session of the Newport training camp ahead of travelling to Minsk.

James, who made up deficits in each of her rides, said: 'We just thought we'd try something new and because my form's come through quite nicely we wanted to get as much speed as possible off the lap.

'I'm just absolutely buzzing. I'm so shocked. I can't believe it, my first world medal.'

Williamson, who received text messages of support from Varnish in the build-up to Minsk, said: 'I'm gobsmacked. To come out with a bronze medal is just amazing.'

James will now ride in the 500 metres
time-trial tomorrow, the first of three individual events in which she
is targeting further success.

She added: 'Seeing the form I've got I'd really like to be up there this week. I'll give it my best shot.'

Pedal power: The Danish team competes during mens team pursuit qualifying race of the event in Minsk

Pedal power: The Danish team competes during mens team pursuit qualifying race of the event in Minsk

Kian Emadi competed in the corresponding men's event, the one-kilometre time-trial, placing an impressive fourth on his debut.

In an event removed from the Olympic programme following Sir Chris Hoy's win in Athens in 2004, Emadi clocked 1:01.756, with Francois Pervis of France winning in 1:00.221, New Zealand's Simon Van Velthooven second in 1.00.869 and Germany's Joachim Eilers third in 1:01.450.

Emadi's time was short of his personal best, set at altitude in Colombia, but he was content with his display.

The 20-year-old will now ride in the men's team sprint on day two alongside Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny, taking Hoy's man three slot in the three-lap event.

Emadi is confident of combining well with the Olympic champions.
He said: 'There's good signs in training. Everyone's stepping up and getting faster as the competition has come closer.'

Three more events take place tomorrow, including the women's team pursuit, featuring Olympic champions Laura Trott and Dani King, with Elinor Barker making up the trio.

Owain Doull is entered into the men's scratch race, with Burke entered in the 4km men's individual pursuit.

Oscar Pistorius shooting: How the South African icon was driven by anger

Icon who fell to earth: Poster boy Pistorius had scars that ran so deep

During an interview with Oscar Pistorius in Pretoria last year, our conversation turned to how the South African’s prosthetic legs affected the way he runs. Pistorius had been training on the grass track at the city’s university and it was striking that he moved in an ungainly, fidgety way.

He shifted his weight from side to side when he was not running. Those 2,600 carbon-fibre blades defined him as one of the most iconic athletes on the planet, but they looked cumbersome; painful even.

Questions turned to how being a double amputee impacted on his training regime. How was he able to compete with rivals who were born with fibulae, the bones that connect your knees to your ankles

Historic: Oscar Pistorius in Olympic action in London last year

Historic: Oscar Pistorius in Olympic action in London last year

Pistorius’s oft-repeated argument for his inclusion in able-bodied athletics was ‘there are tens of thousands of people using the same prosthetics I use and there’s no-one running the same times’, but what made Pistorius different from the rest

When asked what it would mean to become the first double amputee to run at the Olympic Games, a remarkable feat he duly achieved some five months later, it was clear he was irritated. Suddenly, the mild exterior of one of sport’s most famous faces clouded over. Pistorius became fractious and prickly.

‘It’s pretty similar to any other athlete,’ said Pistorius. ‘I think it’s a reward for any athlete, after years of training, to progress to a competition like that.’

In the spotlight: Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria

In the spotlight: Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria

In the spotlight: Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria

He was not being modest, just evasive. Pistorius, after all, was not just ‘any athlete’. He redefined what it is to run fast. He challenged the traditional perception of what a sprinter looks like.

Inspirational is a word too often attached to athletes, but it is a description that accurately reflects what Pistorius has achieved on a 400metre track.

His parents took the decision to have his legs amputated below the knees when he was just 11 months old, yet he became a symbol of battling against adversity, recognised across the globe.

No fear: Pistorius poses for Sportsmail's Andy Hooper last year

No fear: Pistorius poses for Sportsmail's Andy Hooper last year

The speed of Pistorius’s rise to prominence has only been beaten by the swiftness with which he has fallen since reports came in of the shooting in the early hours of Thursday morning.

In 2007, the IAAF, athletics’ governing body, said Pistorius’s prosthesic limbs gave him an unfair advantage but he fought the ruling and saw it overturned the following year.

He did not just challenge legislation, however, he transcended athletics and certainly Para-athletics, testing ideas and dividing opinion about what is right and wrong and acceptable in competitive sport.

Happier times: Oscar Pistorius had been with girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for a couple of months

Happier times: Oscar Pistorius had been with girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for a couple of months

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE BLADE RUNNER

Born November 1986 without the fibula, the bone that connects the knee to the ankle, in each leg. Has both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday.

January 2004 Takes up athletics, initially to recover from a rugby injury.

June 2004 Receives his first pair of Ossur Flex-Foot Cheetah legs, Pistorius’ blades.

August 2004 Wins gold and bronze in the T44 200m and 100m at the Paralympics in Athens.

July 2007 Competes for the first time internationally against able-bodied athletes in Rome.

November 2007 Undergoes clinical tests and is then banned from IAAF competition. The organisation say Pistorius’ blades give him an unfair advantage.

May 2008 The Court of Arbitration for Sport over-rules the IAAF decision.

September 2008 Misses qualification for the Olympics by 0.7secs, but wins three golds at the Paralympics in Beijing.

January 2011 Wins three IPC world titles but loses for the first time in seven years over 100m.

August 2011 Qualifies for the IAAF World Championships in Daegu. Wins silver in the 4x400m relay, but misses out on a place in South Africa’s team for the final.

August 2012 Becomes the first double amputee to run at the Olympic Games, reaching the semi-finals of the 400m and the final of the 4x400m. Carries the South African flag at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony and then wins a silver and two gold medals in the 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay.

February 2013 Charged with murder after his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, is shot dead.

SOUTH AFRICAN GOLD MINE

Pistorius’ exploits made him the most famous Paralympic athlete on the planet and one of the sports’ top earners.

Estimated net worth: 3.2million

Estimated sponsorship deals: 3m (inc Nike and BT)

He is the highest-paid Paralympian in the world and last year was rated the eighth highest-paid Olympic athlete.

Yet, despite the countless awards and myriad appearances on chat shows and glossy magazines around the world in his crusade to be seen as a role model, the Blade Runner’s brand continued to be underpinned by his achievements on the track.

His attempt to break the 45-second barrier was set to continue this season before yesterday’s events. Pistorius had spent the last month training with British 400m runner Martyn Rooney in South Africa and was scheduled to contest two events in Australia in March.

He seemed calmer and more at ease than in the frenzied run-up to London 2012 but the burning desire to achieve, the drive that saw him lose 17kg in weight and change his body shape dramatically, remained.

Pistorius has never been afraid to set himself targets. He won three Paralympic gold medals in Beijing after failing to qualify for the Olympics and then told the world he would not miss out again in London. That he achieved that dream by reaching the semi-finals of the 400m is a testament to his self-belief and determination.

Seeing Pistorius swap race numbers with Kirani James, who eventually won 400m gold, after their semi-final provided one of the most touching moments of the Games, yet the South African’s participation was always going to be more significant than his performance.

It was not until the Paralympics that we saw the true sporting icon Pistorius had become. He was the poster boy of the Games; the good-looking South African plastered over adverts for Nike, Thierry Mugler, Oakley and BT in deals worth an estimated 3m a year, a figure that ranks him among athletics’ top earners.

When I visited him last February there was a copy of GQ magazine on the coffee table, heralding Pistorius as South Africa’s best-dressed man. The Blade Runner was the first and, possibly, only Paralympian whom many would have been able to name before the Games began. But then, suddenly, the halo slipped.

Pistorius lost his T44 200m crown to Alan Oliveira and claimed that the Brazilian’s blades were too long. His comments were not only ironic, given his continued insistence that blades did not give him an unfair advantage, but unsportsmanlike and deeply disrespectful. Yet, in the eyes of many, his outburst was the moment the Paralympics became relevant. This was elite sport we could relate to, argue over and dissect. And Pistorius was at the heart of it.

He comfortably retained his 400m crown and won another gold medal in the 4 x 100m relay, but he lost his 100m title in the stand-out race of the Paralympics. It was not Oscar’s name but that of 19-year-old Briton, Jonnie Peacock that was chanted by the sell-out crowd in the Olympic Stadium that evening.

Would there, though, have been a Jonnie without Oscar, the athlete Peacock has described as his ‘hero’ It was Pistorflius’s extraordinary sporting story that seemed to make it possible for a teenager from Cambridge who contracted meningitis when he was five years old.

And now the remarkable narrative of a quite extraordinary athlete has taken the most unimaginable twist.

A BLOODY HISTORY OF TALENT AND TRAGEDY…

Rugby star killed his daughter
Former Springbok rugby player accidentally shot dead his 19-year-old daughter when he mistook her for a car thief in 2004. Her Volkswagen Golf was being driven out of the driveway of their family home at 5am and he shot the driver from his bedroom window, thinking his daughter Marle was in bed.

Troubled end for Belcher
In December 2012, Jovan Belcher, a 25-year-old line-backer for the Kansas City Chiefs, shot his girlfriend dead before driving to the training ground and killing himself in front of his coach. The couple had a three-month-old child.

Life in prison for pitcher Ogawa
Japanese baseball pitcher Hiroshi Ogawa was convicted in September 2005 of killing a 67-year-old woman and was sentenced to life in prison. Deeply in debt, Ogawa stole $20,000 from the chairman of an industrial plant and pushed the housekeeper down the stairs before drowning her in a lake.

Did OJ get away with murder
In June 1994, NFL Hall of Famer OJ Simpson (below) was arrested for the murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman but was eventually acquitted. In 2008 he was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping and is currently serving 33 years.

Rozier’s seven murders
Former American footballer Robert Rozier played for St Louis Cardinals before joining black supremacist cult ‘The Brotherhood’. He admitted to seven murders and was jailed for 22 years in October 1986 after agreeing to testify against other members of the organisation.

'Suicide bid’ went wrong
Jamaican fast bowler Leslie Hylton, who played in six Tests for the West Indies against England, taking 16 wickets, was hanged in May 1955 for the murder of his wife and remains the only cricketer to have ever been executed. Hylton claimed he had been trying to shoot himself but missed.

Muhammad Ali latest: Picture of legend watching Super Bowl as family deny "death" reports

Legend Ali pictured enjoying Super Bowl after his family deny he is 'close to death'

Olympic opening ceremony” class=”blkBorder” />

Ali, pictured with wife Lonnie, was very frail during his appearance at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

Warning signs: Ali, pictured with wife Lonnie, left, was very frail during his appearance at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, pictured right with Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti

Danger: Former world champion Ali last had a public health scare after the funeral of boxing great Joe Frazier

Danger: Former world champion Ali last had a public health scare after the funeral of boxing great Joe Frazier

Olympic basketball hopeful Amber Charles reacts to government cuts to funding

Olympic hopeful joins campaign against government cuts to basketball funding

bid, has joined the campaign to pressurise the Prime Minister over the slashed funding that is crippling basketball.

Britain’s basketball superstar Luol Deng delivered a hard-hitting letter to David Cameron this week after UK Sport’s funding was cut in the aftermath of the Olympics.

Now Charles, who as a 15-year-old girl from East London was an ambassdor for the Games, has spoken out too. She had a dream to play basketball for her country in Rio in 2016, but that dream is no longer possible if British basketball receives no funding.

Amber Charles was an ambassador for the Games at the age of 15, and met Lord Coe and David Beckham

Amber Charles was an ambassador for the Games at the age of 15, and met Lord Coe and David Beckham

Disappointed: Amber Charles was an ambassador for the Games at the age of 15, and met Lord Coe and David Beckham

Her letter reads as follows: ‘As many of you may remember I was an Ambassador for the London 2012 Olympic bid back in 2005. I was just 15 at the time and as you can imagine being alongside David Beckham, Lord Coe and people like Denise Lewis was an incredible experience for a young girl from East London. These are memories which are precious to me and will stay with me forever.

‘I travelled to Lausanne to present London’s bid book to the IOC and was part of your team which travelled to Singapore for the final presentation to the IOC. I also had the great honour of carrying the Olympic Torch as part of London’s Opening Ceremony.

‘My London 2012 experiences, from 2004 through to the actual Games, were amazing and the moment London was announced as the 2012 Host City will live with me for the rest of my life. That moment inspired me to pursue my dream to become a professional basketball player.

‘Almost eight years on and I am now studying in my final year of university in Tennessee on a basketball scholarship. London 2012 made me even more determined to follow my dreams and my ambition now – as it was even back then in 2005 – is to make the GB basketball team for Rio 2016. It is my focus and my aim.

Luol Deng spoke out against the cuts in a letter to David Cameron

Critical: Luol Deng spoke out against the cuts in a letter to David Cameron

‘But I am utterly dismayed and shocked by the decision by UK Sport to cut funding to the GB Basketball programme to zero. London 2012 was about inspiring the youth of the world through sport. People like me, keeping my dream alive. I just do not understand how all the great work of the 2012 Games – with so much focus on legacy – can then mean my sport being cast aside so soon after London 2012.

‘Without UK Sport funding, GB Basketball is dead and my dream to compete in Rio 2016 is over. I please urge you to do whatever you can to help reverse the short sighted decision by UK Sport and help to keep the inspiration of London 2012 alive for young people like me.

‘I have copied two of the wonderful and treasured photos which will remind me of my experiences and one day I would love to be able to send you a photo of me realising my dream, playing basketball for my country, and, who knows even winning a medal for my country. Imagine our pride and the size of our smiles on that day.’

Sir Clive Woodward: Funding is the oxygen for British success in sports like basketball… dont cut the pipeline

Sir Clive Woodward: Funding is the oxygen for British success in sports like basketball… don’t cut the pipeline

. Several sports – including basketball – have seen their funds slashed.

There is a growing furore over the Olympic sports which have missed out on funding from UK Sport’s 347m pot of gold for the so-called 'Road to Rio'.

Those sports which are deemed not to be ‘podium contenders’ have been left at the starting blocks and pondering their very future and even their existence.

Understandably, administrators, players and fans are angry and frustrated given the very noisy and public commitment to fulfil an Olympic and Paralympic legacy, which was at the core of our successful Bid in 2005 and to Inspire a Generation.

As someone who has worked at the very
heart of elite sport and performance, I have sympathy and support for
these sports, which include basketball, handball and volleyball, which
all attracted massive crowds last summer.

Struggles: Britain's basketball stars will find it difficult to compete on the world stage

Struggles: Britain's basketball stars will find it difficult to compete on the world stage

In terms of potential medal winners at Rio in 2016, those who hold the purse strings probably got it right as judged by their own very strict criteria but we must not develop tunnel vision focused only on the podium.

We must adopt a broader and longer-term vision and aspiration rather than leave ourselves accused of developing an unhealthy lust for medals at all costs, and invest and develop other sports, especially team sports on the back of our Olympic and Paralympic triumph.

It is much more difficult to win medals in team sports compared to individual sports and, traditionally, they do not add many medals to the final medal table because they are not multi-discipline events like rowing, cycling boxing, swimming and athletics. In team sports like basketball you usually only have the men’s team and women’s team.

Road to Rio: The countdown is already on for Britain's trip to Brazil in 2016

Road to Rio: The countdown is already on for Britain's trip to Brazil in 2016

Yet, if you analyse the low cost and highly accessible aspect of most team sports, compared to other sports and those which sit comfortably in our inner communities, it is completely baffling to me, why funding has been completely stopped in this area.

In the wake of London 2012 I had hope our cities would be crammed with courts for kids to play team sports, emulating their heroes and nurturing a love for team sport and the camaraderie and spirit, such sports inspire.

My solution to this currently unacceptable situation is to make a special case for these sports with a completely separate pool of funds made available through a new specially set up division of UK Sport called the 'Olympic Development Sports' providing specific support for sports where existing funds cannot be justified.

Heady times: London 2012 captivated the nation last summer

Heady times: London 2012 captivated the nation last summer

These sports should sign up to a long term business plan, say over 12 years with the aim of qualifying for and winning medals not, just for the next Olympics in 2016 but in 2020 and 2024.

This is investing and building for the future and totally fulfils the Legacy aspiration albeit over a much longer period. These sports should be supported and helped to reach a level where funding can be justified in their own right, and at which stage they will be promoted from the 'Olympic Development Sports' category.

After such a momentous year for sport in Britain, it would be scandalous if these sports did not receive the extra funding they need to continue their exciting journeys and help realise the dreams of thousands of youngsters who simply want to throw a ball into a hoop or push a ball over a net on the sand.

Funding is their oxygen for success. Don’t cut the pipeline.