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Sam Quek says funds shake-up should end help to end fear of failure

UK Sport is changing the way it distributes funds to Olympic and Paralympic sports.

Under the new model, money will be allocated based on medal potential over a 12-year period as opposed to over four years.

On the surface the decision to alter the funding formula may seem strange given how successful, in terms of medals, the system has been.

In 1996, Team GB finished 36th in the Olympic medal table with just 15 medals including one gold. That ranked us below the likes of North Korea, Algeria and Ethiopia.

Something had to change – and it did a year later when National Lottery funding began and completely transformed UK Sport.

Fast forward 20 years to Rio 2016 and second place in the medals table following Team GB’s most successful games in living memory.

Chef De Mission, Mark England, said: “From 36th in the medal table in 1996 to now – we’ve never had it so good”.

Athletes, coaches and emerging talents in smaller sports didn’t necessarily feel the same way though – because if you wanted a slice of the lottery funding pie, you had to show your sport had “medal potential” for each new Olympic cycle.

Following GB Hockey’s bronze at London 2012, we enjoyed a seven per cent boost in funding. However, I remember when we came back from the 2014 World Cup having finished 11th out of 12 teams, our performance director was summoned by UK Sport to explain why we had fallen so short of our expectations.

We were aware popular sports such as table tennis and basketball had all funding removed after poor showings in the previous cycle and were worried hockey could soon experience the same fate.

The pressure eased when we won the European Championships in 2015, but returned when we came last in the Pre-Olympics Champions Trophy tournament in 2016. It was a rollercoaster of emotions.

Representing your country comes with a great deal of individual and team pressure at the best of times. Add in the belief your performances could be responsible for the future of your sport and that pressure became crippling at times.

Indeed, aside from the gold medal, one of the main sources of joy after our success in Rio was the relief we had secured our sports funding for the next generation of athletes.

As revelations about UK Gymnastics and the ruthless pursuit of success continue to be revealed, the hope is a 12-year approach will not only prove just as successful in medalling terms, but also provide a more rounded system when considering athlete wellbeing.

It was refreshing to hear the funding agencies chief operating officer, Simon Moreton, say one of the priorities of the new funding strategy would be on “how we win” as opposed to the “win or your sport could be toast” feeling I experienced while competing.

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