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22 August 2017

British Athletes Crowdfunding to Make It to PyeongChang Winter Olympics

Ever since the Olympic Games concluded in Rio last year, all eyes have been on PyeongChang for the lead up to the 2018 Winter Olympics. With just six months left until the stars of the snow sporting world all converge on South Korea, the time to find out who will be representing our country there is almost upon us.

Unfortunately for some of our athletes, it might not be anything to do with their ability that keeps them from qualifying for next year’s Games.

Funding for British skiers and snowboarders comes from a national governing body – British Ski and Snowboard – but there isn’t enough money here for every prospective winter sports star. Team GB are usually one of the weaker teams that compete in the winter Olympics, and although they’re growing stronger, their medal chances are always far lower than they are during the summer equivalent Games. As a result of this, the available funding for skiers and snowboarders is heavily reduced.

That’s not ideal when the cost for training and travel is fairly expensive.

In response to the lack of funds, some athletes have resorted to crowdfunding in the hope of raising enough to help them qualify for PyeongChang in the New Year.

One such athlete is Molly Summerhayes whose older sister Katie is one of the ‘Park and Pipe’ team members that actually receives funding from British Ski and Snowboard. Alongside working a full time job, Molly has set up a Pledge Sports page to raise £1500 for a trip to the New Zealand training camp that will help her to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics. As one of the most promising half-pipe skiers that Team GB has on its roster, Molly’s presence in PyeongChang would be hugely beneficial, but whether or not she’ll make it there is difficult to say for certain.

Other British athletes having to go through the same process include downhill skier Billy Major, who, despite receiving some funding from British Ski and Snowboard, still has to pay £33,500 a year to cover training and competition costs. In his twenty years, Major has already won a number of Youth and Junior titles, but without the necessary funding to keep up his training, his chances of remaining such a strong force out on the snow are falling. Without being able to attract the interest of a large sponsor, he only really has the public to rely on, but even that isn’t sustainable.

“It’s a lot harder than it sounds to find sponsors willing to put in a lot of money,” he explains. “My parents help out as much as they can, but it’s not enough – it’s a constant worry to find the money to keep training. Crowdfunding is really good but it’s not reliable and we can’t do it every year.”

The governing bodies behind the funding of various sports are not necessarily to blame for athletes receiving no money for their training, particularly when it comes to winter sports. There isn’t an unlimited amount of money to go to everyone which means it has to be divided in an appropriate manner. In this situation, the way that makes the most sense is to allocate the biggest amount of funds to the sports where Britain is succeeding the most.

However, this ends up producing something of a catch 22 situation: if the money only goes to the sports where Team GB has some success then they’ll never produce any stars in the other sports. It’ll only be through means like crowdfunding that these athletes will stand a chance.

Or perhaps not.

While people may rely on crowdfunding now, the more successful they are in competitions, the better a chance they’ll have at receiving official funding. This source of income need only be seen as a first step rather than the sole solution, provided that our athletes continue to showcase their skills and rank among the best when its race day. More success equals more money, which in turn is likely to lead to more success.

Rory Tapner, chairman of British Ski and Snowboard, declares that:

“Funding for British snowsports has increased significantly over the past year. Parts of our programme are supported by UK Sport and this has increased recently with more disciplines being funded. Additional fund raising schemes have also been created as we seek to establish Britain as a top snowsport nation.”

Although Britain may never be as successful as nations like Switzerland and Canada where there’s much better access to snow-capped mountain ranges, the nation is still capable of improving its team and producing better results in the years to come.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. His love for cold weather sports and hiking in the winter gives him the enthusiasm for writing about keeping warm.