Chorley sprinters in Olympic doubt

Chorley sprinters in Olympic doubt

Chorley sprinters in Olympic doubt

First published in Athletics by , Athletics correspondent

Paralympians Graeme Ballard and Michael Churm are facing the toughest challenge of their careers to reach the London 2012 Games after losing their funding from UK Athletics.

The journey towards the Paralympic Games starts for real today after Wednesday’s final celebration of the team’s success at Beijing last year.

The two Chorley Athletic Club members spent yesterday evening at a reception in Buckingham Palace for an event which was promised after the parade through London following the Olympics and Paralympics in China.

While the Olympians attended their reception on the same night, yesterday the Paralympians finally got their turn. Today, they will be back training.

The men, who have cerebral palsy, learned that they would not receive funding shortly after the London parade back in October when the list of supported athletes was reduced from 42 to 33.

Graeme’s disability is the more severe, and he races in the T36 classification having managed sixth in the 200 metres and eighth in the 100m and 400m in China.

In the T37 class, Michael was fifth in the 200m and eighth in the 100m.

Having never before failed to medal in seven major champ-ionships and winning 11 medals including gold in the 200m at the 2005 European Games in Finland, Ballard took his case for funding to appeal.

He was able to argue that a serious back injury before and during the games compromised his performances, and that the injury was scanned afterwards and was revealed to be a disc problem.

Neither his first appeal to UK Athletics, nor a second to an independent panel were allowed, and although his case has been supported by Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle, the process has now been exhausted.

The lack of funding does not mean an end to their Paralympic careers, and that has been signalled by the governing body when they selected both to compete for Great Britain in the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester which is from May 20 to May 25.

They will each contest the 100 metres and 200 metres in their respective classes.

Michael, who is 27, is currently studying a Sports Management course in Manchester and has hardly trained since Beijing, but started back last week after contacting his Chorley coach Francis Crook.

For financial reasons though, he will spend more time training nearer to his Manchester home and without access to English Institute of Sport facilities he is back at his local gym which has supported him for the last eight years.

Graeme, 29, has already re-discovered his zest for sprinting and is remaining with coach Paula Dunn in Manchester, but with backing from former disability athlete Esther Cruize at Wigan.

Graeme especially will acutely miss the medical support he previously enjoyed from UKA with needing regular massages and physiotherapy, and his mum Barbara feels he will miss the medical backup more than the money.

He is currently looking for a job so that he can support himself, preferably working with children where he has considerable experience as a volunteer.

Having already overcome so much in their lives, Michael or Graeme have demonstrated that that they have what it takes to succeed, and it would take a foolish man to write off either of them. andymcallister@virgin.net

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