Funds no longer on ice for skate star

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The Independent Online
Nicky Gooch believes that the latest announcement on National Lottery funding for competitors could be good news for him. But he is waiting for confirmation before he starts celebrating, writes Mike Rowbottom.

The 23-year-old from Roehampton, who earned a speed-skating bronze medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics, has seen his level of assistance fluctuate alarmingly in the past three years.

Before his breakthrough, he found himself in the position common to so many British sportsmen and women in recent years - scraping a living, relying on parents and friends.

"I was getting small grants from the Sports Aid Foundation, but we were talking a matter of a few hundred pounds, which was nowhere near enough," he said. "Without my parents' support I wouldn't have been able to make it."

He was working at the Guildford Spectrum ice centre, and getting time on the ice in lieu. But even then it was a matter of having three training sessions per week due to the pressure of bookings.

Meanwhile, his rivals in Korea, Canada, the United States and Italy were all getting as much time on the ice as they needed, training full-time in specialist groups.

That was the challenge. And Gooch, as is the British way, succeeded despite everything.

"It has been such a struggle for British athletes," Gooch said. "The lack of funding has hindered everyone's development. It has basically been a case that if you haven't got a medal, you can't get a decent grant."

He hopes that yesterday's news will change all that.