In what may come as a stunning move to some weightlifting fans, Britain’s Olympic weightlifting team has lost all of their government funding for their Tokyo 2020 training cycle.
“We are shocked and devastated that UK Sport has not awarded any funding for our lifters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycle,” British Weightlifting wrote in a statement. “We recognise that funding challenges exist throughout sport, but believe that UK Sport’s approach of removing all funding for tier four sports will increase the disparity between the larger professional sports and the minority, largely amateur sports, which will be difficult to bridge in the future.”
UK Sport receives money from the UK government and National Lottery to direct the development of sport within the country. Funding for badminton, archery, fencing, and wheelchair rugby simultaneously lost their funding as well, while funding was slightly increased for athletics, swimming, gymnastics, and several other events.
CEO of UK Sport Liz Nicholl told the BBC that the decision wasn’t easy. “We would like to invest in every sport but the reality is we have to prioritise to protect and enhance the medal potential,” she said. “If we under-invest across the board then the British teams will ultimately underperform at the Games and medal success will be put at risk.”
In a radio interview, British Weight Lifting CEO Ashley Metcalfe told BBC Radio Leeds that he was “disappointed and shocked” by the news. (The British federation uses two words for the sport of “weight lifting.”)
“We didn’t particularly see it coming. We thought we’d been achieving milestones over the last three years in fact our results have grown and our performances have improved dramatically,” he said, pointing out that over the Commonwealth, European and World weightlifting events, British Weightlifting has won over fifty medals in the last eighteen months.
“We’re going in the right direction, and we’ve got an outstanding group of young female weightlifters in particular, with the likes of Rebekah Tiler and Zoe Smith leading the way (…) The question is will (Tiler) ever be able to really fulfill her potential, her Olympic potential and achieve the goals she’s set for herself?”
He went on to say that Tiler will go from being a funded athlete who could train full-time to possible needing to work part-time or full-time. “That’s going to be remarkably challenging when other athletes around the world will be training full-time.”
In a statement posted on Instagram, 2016 British Olympian Sonny Webster had a more optimistic outlook.
We did it before without funding lads, we can do it again and with a bigger team! This is just another obstacle. We never did this sport for money in this first place. Don’t get me wrong it made it easier but with some passion and determination the right people will step forward to support those looking to go all the way again. Any person can appreciate that burning desire to make a dream reality. There is plenty of people out there in the position to help us it’s just about finding them stay positive and press on. ITS BIG FRIDAY AND WE STILL HERE GRINDING! #goldcoast2018 #tokoyo2020
The way forward isn’t clear, but Metcalfe said that he will be exploring other funding options.
Featured image via British Weightlifting.