Olympic funding decision ‘short-sighted’

The Copper Box, venue of the London 2012 Olympic Handball contest. Supplied by LOCOG
The Copper Box, venue of the London 2012 Olympic Handball contest. Supplied by LOCOG
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Horsham’s Olympic star Mark Hawkins has labelled the London 2012 Olympic legacy a travesty after UK Sport announced their funding strategy for the next Games.

Hawkins was part of the Team GB handball side which competed at the Games for the first time this summer, thanks largely to more than £2million worth of investment in the previous four years.

But it was announced his sport would receive no funding in the next Olympic cycle, leading up to Rio in 2016 - despite a £1million boost to handball at a grass roots level announced by Sport England 24 hours earlier.

And Mark believes the news is a hammer blow to the sport in this country.

“It is a complete travesty,” he said. “There has been a three-fold increase in participation in handball, now there is nowhere for the young players to move on to.

“Handball was one of the most popular sports at the Games and this was a perfect opportunity for it to take off in this country. We were starting to create a legacy.”

Neither of Team GB’s handball teams at the Olympics won a single game, and with UK Sport taking a no compromise stance on rewarding sports more likely to win medals, it could sound the death knell for the sport at an elite level.

“I think it is incredibly short sighted,” said Mark, who signed up for the Sporting Giants scheme in 2007 - designed to attract talented athletes into sports such as handball and basketball - which has also had funding withdrawn.

“We were never going to compete with the likes of rowing and cycling.

“The legacy is now that the national team is in severe threat of not being able to continue playing, that’s not a legacy. We were a young team and we would have been in our prime for the 2020 Olympics. I don’t know how people sitting behind a desk can make this decision.”

Meanwhile, Mark, who played in professional leagues in Denmark and Iceland in the run up to the Games, is training with Salford this winter.