By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

July 15 - Britain's winter sports are to face a tough new funding criteria which means that they will be judged on their medal potential, UK Sport chief executive John Steele has revealed following a review into the team's disappointing performance at the Vancouver Olympics earlier this year.

The team had been set a "stretch target" of three medals but returned home with only one, Amy Williams' gold medal in the bob skeleton.

A report from the British Athletes Commission published earlier this week called for more funding to be targetted towards winter sports.

That led to the British Olympic Association (BOA) claiming that they wanted "systematic changes" in how the team prepared for the next Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

But Steele has warned that funding in future will be directed to the sports that offer the most medal winning potential.

That will be good news for sports like bob skeleton, who have won a medal in every Olympics since it was reintroduced to the programme at Salt Lake City in 2002, but less welcome for the likes of snowboarding, which has consistently underperformed at the Games.

Steele said: "Following our own thorough post-Vancouver review process conducted with the sports, the UK Sport Board has already approved significant changes to the way in which future decisions will be made with regard to investment in winter sports.

"This sees, for the first time, the alignment of summer and winter sports, ensuring that all funding decisions can be made based on relative merit and against known resource.

"This is underpinned by our 'no compromise' philosophy which targets funds at those sports most likely to deliver medals."

Bob skeleton received £2.1 million of the funding allocated by UK Sport in the Vancouver Olympiad cycle - more than a third of the total £5.8 million invested into winter sports.

Curling, another sport at which Britain traditionally does well in at the Olympics, including the women, led by Rhona Martin (pictured) winning the gold medal at Salt Lake City, received £1.1 million.

That left the five other winter sports that UK Sport funds to share £2.5 million.

Snowboarding received the least with £248,000 while skiing, whose governing body went into administration of the eve of the Vancouver Games because of severe financial problems, got £372,000.

That situation will not improve for these governing bodies when UK Sport introduces the same system that they already apply to the summer sports.

Steele said: "We have a duty to ensure public funds are invested appropriately - this is a responsibility we take extremely seriously.

"We have seen how well this approach has worked with the summer sports and we firmly believe it will do likewise with the winters."

The situation is further complicated for the winter sports by the election of the new coalition Government, who have begun implementing a series of severe cuts.

Steele said: "With regards to funding decisions for Sochi, we weren’t able to make these due to the current economic climate.

"UK Sport’s budget for this period will not be known until after the Autumn Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) [on October 20] and we can only make decisions based on known and available resource.
"Instead, existing awards for winter sports have been extended for six months, thereby allowing the sports to continue their preparations for the coming season.

"It is expected that announcements on the longer-term awards will be made by the end of the year.

"The sports have been informed and they totally understand the situation.

"We all accept this isn’t ideal, but it is without doubt the best option in the current environment."

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