Just days after the uneasy truce between UK Sport and Britain’s amateur bodies, boxing has been hit by another major controversy, with GB star Andrew Selby likely to be ruled out of next year’s Commonwealth Games after signing a contract with the International Amateur Boxing Association to become part of their revolutionary AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) tournament.
It is a move which will dismay the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales, as Selby was the outstanding Welsh hope for a gold medal in any sport. The 24-year-old is ranked world No 1 after making history this month by becoming the first British boxer to successfully defend a European title. While the APB contract, which provides substantial prize money, allows Selby to compete at all major AIBA tournaments, including the Rio Olympics, there is no provision for his release for the Commonwealth Games. Should other GB stars, including England’s Olympic super-heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, decide to take the same route, it could denude the Games of Britain’s best boxers, a situation which concerns the Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson. He tells us: “I am not at all happy with this. It is important that the strongest possible British teams are represented in the Commonwealth Games which, like the Olympics, are of vital importance to the nation as a whole. I shall be watching the situation closely.” UK Sport say: “It is for the sport and the athlete to decide the best route for them to success at the Olympic Games in 2016, which is what our funding is provided for.” However, many will argue that participation in an event as significant as the Commonwealth Games is surely part of the World Class Performance Programme which financially supports Selby and other elite boxers.
That’s the spirit
There may have been a marked drop-off in sports participation since the Olympics, but not, apparently, for youngsters with disabilities. Among those helping to inspire them to get involved is the Paralympian swimming star Liz Johnson, official ambassador for the Panathlon, the multi-sport event for schoolkids whose London finals take place at the Westway Sports Centre on Wednesday. Tucked underneath the A40 flyover, it is a world away from the Olympic Aquatic Centre where Johnson, 27, won her 100m breaststroke bronze last year but she says: “The best thing about Panathlon is that it gives kids the opportunity to try competitive sports they might not otherwise get in their school environment. It makes sport accessible for these children.” The Olympics and Paralympics may be done and gold-dusted, but it is good to see that in this respect the spirit of 2012 lingers on.
Stunned by Donna’s death
Those of us who knew the lovely Donna Hartley when she was one of Britain’s golden girls of the track were shocked by her sudden death last week aged 58, apparently from heart failure. Her contemporaries had been equally stunned when, a few years after her retirement from athletics, pictures appeared of her flexing phenomenal muscles on the bodybuilding circuit, where she became a champion. There is no evidence to suggest the amazing transformation in her physique was due to anything more than diet and pumping iron, but equally there is no official drug-testing programme in bodybuilding. Like Florence Griffith-Joyner, whose shape and speed was always the subject of scepticism, and who passed away in her sleep at 38, such speculation dies with her. There is no doubt that the sport Donna graced will be well represented at her funeral on Wednesday.