Marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe has insisted she has no plans to retire from competitive running, despite being axed from the Lottery funding programme following her injury-plagued year.
Radcliffe, who is 39 in December, is one of several big-name athletes to be cut adrift from financial support by UK Athletics as part of an overhaul of the World Class Performance Programme for 2013. New guidelines introduced by funding agency UK Sport mean only athletes deemed to be potential medallists at world and Olympic level now qualify for financial support.
Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis, both members of the Olympic gold medal-winning 4 x 100 metres relay team in Athens in 2004, have also paid the price for a below-par 2012 season, while other notable casualties include 2007 world 400m silver medallist Nicola Sanders, 2008 world indoor 60m silver medallist Jeanette Kwakye and Stephanie Twell, the 2008 world junior 1500m champion.
Radcliffe, who has raced only four times since her return to competitive action in 2011, admitted yesterday she was not surprised at her loss of funding but said she was determined to prolong her running career.
Her personal wealth means she is, in any case, means-tested out of receiving any personal allowance but her omission from the programme means she will no longer have access to free medical support – a considerable blow for an athlete who has suffered so many injury and health problems.
She is currently rehabilitating from surgery on the chronic foot problem that forced her to pull out of the London Olympics in August.
Reacting to yesterday’s funding announcement on her Twitter page, Radcliffe said: “I am very grateful for the support Lottery funding gives us athletes and fully expected to see it withdrawn.
“From the beginning, I have only ever received medical support, which is of course significant and vital. Since funding came in, I have seen big differences in the depth and strength of all our sports.
“Retirement is definitely not in any plans. I’m not doing all this cross-training and getting this foot healthy and strong for nothing.”
Neil Black, the new performance director of UK Athletics, said he hoped Radcliffe would be able to return to top-level racing but he and his selection panel had to consider the funding criteria of medal potential at next year’s World Championships in Moscow or at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“The selection panel talked it through in reasonable detail and didn’t feel it was possible to suggest that Paula was a genuine medal prospect for Rio,” he said.
“She has undergone recent surgery and is in the middle of a rehabilitation period for a substantial problem, though a problem she can recover from, and therefore the possibility of performing in Moscow next year is uncertain and challenging.
“Put that all together and it was the right decision not to maintain Paula on the programme. She’ll carry on rehabilitating. She’ll carry on with her return to training and she obviously hopes, and we obviously hope, that she will perform incredibly well going into the future.”
The funding announcement brought better news for several younger athletes, with world junior champions Adam Gemili and Katarina Johnson-Thompson both being promoted to ‘podium level’ support.
Sprint hurdlers Lawrence Clarke and Andy Pozzi, discus thrower Lawrence Okoye and 1500m runner Laura Weightman have also been added to the podium list, while Olympic high jump bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz has been restored to funding after being dropped last year.
More surprisingly, world indoor champion Yamile Aldama remains on the programme after turning 40 in August, while fellow triple jumper Phillips Idowu will continue to be funded despite his high-profile bust-up with UK Athletics this summer.
Black said: “I’ve recently met and talked with Phillips. We will carry on talking. I think we both feel really positive about the future and Phillips is on the programme as a result of being a genuine medal contender for the future.”
Of the athletes leaving the programme, Welsh 400m hurdler Rhys Williams is entitled to feel hard done by. Bizarrely, he has been axed from financial support despite winning the European title in Helsinki while fellow Briton Nathan Woodward, who was seventh in the European final, remains on funding.
The decision of UK Athletics not to support any female sprinters on podium level and just one sprinter, Margaret Adeoye, on the lower ‘development level’ has also provoked criticism from some of the athletes left out. The lack of support for a women’s sprint relay team this year was widely blamed for Britain’s failure to qualify a team for the Olympics.
Abi Oyepitan, the 2004 Olympic 200m finalist, tweeted: “They talk about change but it’s a continuation of the same disrespect female sprinters have always gotten!”
Black said men’s and women’s sprinting was under review and talks were being held with UK Sport to explore ways of funding a women’s relay programme.
Athletes included on world class performance programme 2013:
Ola Abidogun (Stephen Thomas), *Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Rana Reider), Yamile Aldama (Frank Attoh), Hollie Arnold (Anthony Hughes), Graeme Ballard (Stephen Thomas), *Michael Bingham (Scott Hall), Paul Blake (Rob Ellchuk), Holly Bleasdale (Dan Pfaff), Julia Bleasdale (Nic Bideau), Sally Brown (Philip Tweedie), *Richard Buck (Steve Fudge), Mickey Bushell (Fred Periac), *Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold), *Chris Clarke (Steve Fudge), Lawrence Clarke (Malcolm Arnold), Libby Clegg (Keith Antoine), Hannah Cockroft (Peter Eriksson), *Shana Cox (Lloyd Cowan), *James Dasaolu (Steve Fudge), Aled Davies (Anthony Hughes), David Devine (Brian Scobie), *Emily Diamond (Jared Deacon), Lisa Dobriskey (Ricky Soos), Kyron Duke (Anthony Hughes), *James Ellington (John Powell), Hannah England (Bud Baldaro), Jessica Ennis (Toni Minichiello), Mo Farah (Alberto Salazar), Adam Gemili (Michael Afilaka), Robbie Grabarz (Fayyaz Ahmed), Daniel Greaves (Jim Edwards), *Jack Green (Malcolm Arnold), Dai Greene (Malcolm Arnold), *Katrina Hart (Rob Ellchuk), Sophie Hitchon (Derek Evely), Phillips Idowu (Aston Moore), Emma Jackson (Alan Morris), Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Mike Holmes), Beverley Jones (John Parker), *Nigel Levine (Linford Christie), Steve Lewis (Dan Pfaff), *Christian Malcolm (Stuart McMillan), *Lee McConnell (Rodger Harkins), *Jenny McLoughlin (Darrell Maynard), Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter), Brett Morse (Andy Brittan), Christine Ohuruogu (Lloyd Cowan), Lawrence Okoye (John Hillier), Andrew Osagie (Craig Winrow), Jo Pavey (Gavin Pavey), Jonnie Peacock (Dan Pfaff), Josie Pearson (Anthony Hughes), Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider), Andrew Pozzi (Malcolm Arnold), Gemma Prescott (Michael Anthony Woods), Shara Proctor (Rana Reider), Stefanie Reid (Keith Antoine), *Martyn Rooney (Fayyaz Ahmed), Ben Rushgrove (Rob Ellchuk), Greg Rutherford (Dan Pfaff), Goldie Sayers (Dan Pfaff), *Perri Shakes-Drayton (Chris Zah), Will Sharman (George Maciukiewicz), Nathan Stephens (Anthony Hughes), *Danny Talbot (Daniel Cossins), Chris Tomlinson (Self-Coached), Andy Turner (Lloyd Cowan), Laura Weightman (Steve Cram), David Weir (Jenny Archer), Richard Whitehead (Liz Yelling/Keith Antoine), Claire Williams (Jim Edwards), *Conrad Williams (Linford Christie), Robin Womack, Shelly Woods (Peter Eriksson), Bethany Woodward (Jared Deacon), Nathan Woodward (Malcolm Arnold).
Podium-level funded athletes (those identified with * are supported on the basis of their potential to win a medal as part of a relay team)