Hoey enjoys her bob a job week

Inside Lines
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The Independent Online

Kate Hoey certainly believes in doing her best to demonstrate that she is determined to be the minister for all sport, indeed, all sorts of sport. Thursday night saw her not, as you might expect, at Elland Road but at the national baton-twirling championships in Birmingham. I kid you not. Moreover, the other two football Euro-biggies of the week were sports minister-free zones, too. Instead of the plush VIP boxes at the Nou Camp and Old Trafford Hoey opted to spend a few days with our Olympic winter sports kids in Austria, sharing their experiences on snow and ice as one of the village people. And they were suitably impressed. There she was hurtling head first down an ice tunnel on a bob-skeleton, skiing down a mountainside with no little dexterity, scoring five hits out of five on the biathlon shooting range ("I was brought up on a farm in Northern Ireland, you know") and exercising her piloting skills on the practice bobsleigh run. As her press-ganged passenger (or "bulk" as she kindly put it) I can personally vouch for her derring-do. When the sports minister says jump in, you jump. Assuring her that Inside Lines was always right behind her we whooshed off, my heart in her hands. True, she did decline to get her skates on and join me in the Bolero, but she had made the point that at last we do have a sporting minister. This was not lost on the assembled youngsters from 13 winter sports gathered at the British Airways Olympic Futures training camp in the tiny Alpine village of Maria Alm. Hoey, 53, was equally bowled over by the enthusiasm and dedication of those would-be Winter Olympians who are more used to getting the cold shoulder back home and promised to see what more could be done to further their efforts financially. "I can't produce an instant chequebook but when I get back I shall certainly beasking some pertinent questions," she said. Good for her. No doubt she found it uplifting to encounter young sports people, like 17-year-old-Paul McMillan, possibly our best-ever skiing prospect, Gillian Sowden, who has gone to live in Norway because she wants to be a top biathlete and a whole crop of curlers, lugers, skaters, bobbers and cross-counttry skiers who are neither sullen nor cynical, and are untainted by drugs or overburdened with cash. The one-off camps in camps in Austria and Florida, organised by the once-stuffy British Olympic Association, now the most progressive and professional of our sports bodies, are funded by BA to the tune of £350,000. As Sharron Davies, who acts as a sort of bunny-mother to the young Olympians, says: "Let's hope they stick with it,even though there's far less kudos in this project than simply slapping a banner on the side of a soccer pitch. We desperately need British industry to support British sport." A message that surely will appeal to our bobbing, baton-twirling sports minister.

Stadium first for Britain

A new sports stadium is being built in Britain and, refreshingly, it is being done without a peep of protest from anyone, without resorting to parliamentary select committee enquiries and it is not costing the earth. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is that, when completed, it will be the first stadium in the world to cater exclusively for the needs of disabled sports people. Situated at Boston, in Lincolnshire the £7.1m project will have an eight-lane track, floodlit training pitches and state-of-the-art jumping, throwing and practice areas, plus a health fitness centre with a swimming pool, all developed from Boston rugby club's existing 10-acre site by the British Disabled Sporting Initiative. There will be be ramped acccess to all parts of the arena, pens for guide dogs and guide rails in Braille Around 50 per cent of the cost is being met by Boston Borough Council. Says Peter Arnott, a Paralympic coach at Atlanta in 1966: "My opposite numbers in Australia and overseas are green with envy."

Time to be Frank

Boxing manager Frank Maloney has had one of those votes of confidence dreaded by his opposite numbers in football. His boss, Panos Eliades, promoter of world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, was asked last week to confirm or deny stories of a split in the fighter's camp and that Maloney's services would no longer be required after Saturday's bout with American Michael Grant in New York. "Frank is here and he's here to stay," replied Eliades. "He's Lennox's manager, and that's it." Asked the same question Lewis dismissed it all as "press talk" and added: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Sounds reasonable enough, though the fact that Maloney, with promotions to look after at home, has not been in Lewis's Pennsylvania training camp continue to add fuel to the rumours. "We didn't want Frank wasting his time there doing nothing," said Eliades. Hmm.

Swimming's sweet waters

British swimming continues to splash out after its resurgences in recent world and European short course championships. The acquistion on a four-year contract of the Australian , Bill Sweetenham as new national performance director when Deryk Snelling returns to Canada after the Sydney Olympics, is something of a coup. He is currently the national youth coach in Australia where they were reluctant to let him go. "He is the ideal man to take the British team forward," says Snelling.