Richard Whitehead hopes athletes receive financial backing until Tokyo

By Nick Mashiter, PA
PA Media: Sport

Double Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead insists athletes deserve to be backed financially until the rearranged Olympics and Paralympics.

UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger admits the funding for British sport after the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games has entered “uncharted territory”

The current cycle runs until March 2021 with no new dates for the Olympics and Paralympics set, after they were postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Whitehead is out to defend his T42 200m title and complete a hat-trick after winning in 2012 and 2016, but with uncertainty surrounding the run-in to any rearranged Games he feels UK Sport needs to support athletes currently on funding beyond March.

Dame Katherine Grainger admits the funding has entered “uncharted territory” (Nick Ansell/PA)
Dame Katherine Grainger admits the funding has entered “uncharted territory” (Nick Ansell/PA)

He told the PA news agency: “That’s going to have to happen and it would be the commitment given to the athletes who have given so much to this point.

“After Tokyo the funding might have to change to accommodate successful sports, or non successful sports. They might need to look at it because it (the postponement) has had such a massive affect on the athletes.

“There are sports out there like wheelchair rugby who were hoping to go to Tokyo win a medal and enhance their sport. That was their goal for this year and they are devastated having been self-funding a team sport which isn’t that cheap.

“Those athletes really need to dig in deep to get onto the team as well as the podium.”

But four-time world champion Whitehead does not want handouts and insisted any extended funding must be deserved.

“The expectation is now is the lottery-funded athletes are kept on funding but with some performance indicators,” said the 43-year-old.

“I wouldn’t want UK Sport or British Athletics to just say to me ‘OK, we’ll give you the funding, we know you’re in great shape and we’ll just let you get on the plane’.

“I want them to say ‘we still expect you to push on and if you’re going we expect you to be the best in the event’.”

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers have said the Games must take place by next summer with IOC president Thomas Bach confirming spring dates were under consideration.

Whitehead hopes the IOC do not rush into rearranging the Games (David Davies/PA)
Whitehead hopes the IOC do not rush into rearranging the Games (David Davies/PA)

The IOC had little option but to postpone Tokyo 2020 after countries began to pull out – with Canada and Australia saying they would not send teams – but Whitehead believes any spring Games would be premature.

“Everyone needs to recover and, for a massive event with a global audience, spring next year would be far too soon,” he said.

“Having events like the Olympics and Paralympics, especially Paralympics, there are underlying disabilities which are affected by this condition.

“Athletes have ME and cerebral palsy so they wouldn’t be able to compete if there’s still some underlying cases in the Tokyo and Asia region. That’ll limit who takes part.

“It was definitely the right decision and hopefully they don’t compromise the Games by trying to put them on too early.”

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