Inside Lines: Why little Zoe needs support to take weight off her mind
Sunday 20 December 2009
Tiny teenage weightlifter Zoe Smith continues to demonstrate that she is likely to be one of Britain's star turns in 2012, setting new records -now in excess of 200 - almost every time she heaves more than her own body weight above her head. The winsome Kent schoolgirl, 15, has had her funding suspended by governing body World Class Lifting after a dispute over her coaching programme – she is currently mentored by her personal coach Andy Callard while WCL apparently would like her to be under their supervision in Leeds. But Smith's parents understandably do not wish her schooling to be disrupted and she has made phenomenal progress with Callard in Dartford. The funding body, UK Sport, emphasise that the decision has been taken not by them but WCL "who want her to take the same route as other athletes on their programme". They add: "We do not have a say in what they do but we will be happy to be involved in any discussions to help resolve this as she could be one of our successes in 2012." However, since we raised the issue with UK Sport, there seems to have been a softening of attitudes by WCL, who have been in touch with Callard, and a solution seems possible. This would be good news for Zoe and a sport which hasn't covered itself in Olympic gold dust. Zoe, who can rectify that, is too precious a talent to be weighed down by politics.
For Dutton, read Hutton
So, no one individual gets fingered over the £20 million of public money "handed out without proper scrutiny" by Sport England to several sports governing bodies which they knew were not fit for purpose between 1999 and 2007. In that time, Sport England had four chairmen, six chief executives and countless staff, none of whom apparently are accountable, according to a report by Timothy Dutton QC. In this respect the Dutton Report, despite condemning a "flawed system", seems more like the Hutton Report. Exactly where did the money go and how was it used? Who knows? There are even rumours – undoubtedly malicious – that some now rests in a Swiss bank account. "A damning indictment of a lack of financial management and control," says shadow sports minister Hugh Robertson. Quite. The inquiry itself is said to have cost around £300,000. How many fit-for-purpose sports could do with that sort of cash? All of this has nothing to do with Sport England's present regime, which discovered the "black hole". But shouldn't they simply have called in the Fraud Squad rather than spend taxpayers' money on yet another report?
Milton's paradise regained
Milton Keynes? The name sounds as if it should belong to a jobbing thespian in a Radio Four play ("The part of the butler was played by Milton Keynes") but now it seems MK could have much a bigger role to play – on the world stage should England get the 2018 World Cup. Seven years ago we were the first to interview music entrepreneur Pete Winkelman in his stately home (with its own football pitch) about his dream of bringing League football to the satellite town which lurks just off the M1. Posh was in his adjoining recording studio, accompanied by Becks. He keeps good company, does Pete, and thinks big. Milton may have lost his paradise but Pete has certainly found his.
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