Skaters get the cold shoulder

Inside lines

Is British skating about to disappear through a hole in the ice? Last week a begging letter was dispatched from the offices of the National Ice Skating Association to all members requesting donations to enable our top skaters to continue competing at international level. "Any contributions, however small, will be warmly welcomed," wrote the general secretary, Peter Morrissey. No doubt. The sport which reaped such golden rewards when Cousins, Curry and Torvill and Dean were ice icons has slipped and fallen on its backside. Financially, few sports are in a more parlous state and the withdrawal of all National Lottery funding (worth over £1m) because of poor international results and the lack of an acceptable world-class performance plan could bring skating to a standstill. This coincides with the decision of the British ice dance champions, Julie Keeble and Lucasz Zalewski, to quit less than a year after winning the title in Belfast. The couple had been touted as the new Torvill and Dean but, according

Is British skating about to disappear through a hole in the ice? Last week a begging letter was dispatched from the offices of the National Ice Skating Association to all members requesting donations to enable our top skaters to continue competing at international level. "Any contributions, however small, will be warmly welcomed," wrote the general secretary, Peter Morrissey. No doubt. The sport which reaped such golden rewards when Cousins, Curry and Torvill and Dean were ice icons has slipped and fallen on its backside. Financially, few sports are in a more parlous state and the withdrawal of all National Lottery funding (worth over £1m) because of poor international results and the lack of an acceptable world-class performance plan could bring skating to a standstill. This coincides with the decision of the British ice dance champions, Julie Keeble and Lucasz Zalewski, to quit less than a year after winning the title in Belfast. The couple had been touted as the new Torvill and Dean but, according to their coach, Gary Hoppe, they see no point in continuing in the present cold climate. He reckons they are being frozen out through lack of support and encouragement. "In their case it isn't about money, because they've only had one Lottery grant, £4,600 in January, and they've existed without it before. It is sheer frustration." What makes Hoppe hopping mad is his belief that there is resentment towards them because they usurped the favourites to win the British title and the fact that the Polish-born Zaleswski does not hold a British passport (his application is with the Home Office). "Something is seriously wrong with our system," he says. "There is a lack of direction, mismanagement and so much in-house squabbling. The sport desperately needs a shake-up. The governing body have had money in the past but it has been squandered. It is all very sad." So it would seem. Now Cardiff's Keeble, 25, and her 23-year-old partner, who had hoped to qualify for the Olympics, will go their separate ways after being brought together by Hoppe less than three years ago. Keeble, who worked as a book-keeper between skating commitments hopes to study accountancy at university while Zalewski , who has lived in London since 1991, is completing his MSc. "It seems we'll never have another T and D," sighs Hoppe, who says he would now like to become an international judge. "I just hope speaking my mind won't prejudice my chances."

BBC bed down for Sydney

David Coleman was conspicuous by his absence at last week's launch of the BBC's mass excursion to the Olympics (he was said to have a family commitment) but the famous balls were being juggled, on this occasion by Steve Rider. Announcing that he and his co-host Sue Barker would be presenting a daily Olympic programme starting at 7am here he added that by the time it concluded it would be well past midnight in Sydney "when Sue and I will head off to bed." Ms Barker seemed unsure whether to blush or blanch before Rider quickly suggested he should re-phrase the comment. The BBC Olympic team of 350 is bigger than Britain's and for the first time since 1960 the 74-year-old Coleman will not be covering the opening ceremony. Instead the job goes to Barry Davies, brought in from the cold after shivering his way through a succession of Winter Games openings.

Arsenal short of Real money

The money continues to roll in at Highbury, where the club's pre-tax profits for the last financial year leapt to £21.2m from a mere £2.07m, thanks largely to the £23m transfer of Nicolas Anelka to Real Madrid. But Arsenal's annual report reveals that they are still owed £16m, even though the Spanish club have sold him on to Paris St Germain. Hard-up Real have estimated debts £140m but Arsenal have bank guarantees for the money, so they will get paid even if Real go bust. However, as only £4m is payable this year Arsenal will still be owed £12m in a year's time. But at least they are saving a bit on the salary paid to the vice-chairman David Dein, which has been halved from £500,000 to £250,000.

Big wheels in China

Underachievers we may be in most mainstream sports, but there is now one activity where we are now very big wheels indeed. Unicycling. Remember 14-year-old Kaleigh Grainger, the Dudley schoolgirl whose mission to the world championships in China was highlighted in these pages recently? Well, she's back from Peking with a gold medal. Kaleigh teamed up with Britain's top unicyclist, Roger Davis, from Durham, to win the artistic pairs title and was a creditable fourth in her individual age group competition. Moreover Davis, a 36-year-old design engineer, beat a field of 800 to win gold in the 10km marathon. If you think it's all a bit eccentric, try travelling just one metre balanced on one wheel without falling off. Britain's unicyclists gather for their annual convention in Mostyn, North Wales, at the end of the month.

Another Games cover-up

It's finally been settled, that daft dispute over what Britain's swimmers should have emblazoned on their bodysuits in Sydney. Although the manufacturers Speedo will still produce suits for the 36 out of 41 competitors contracted to use their gear with their brand logo, the British Olympic Association will overstamp them with the five Olympic rings and the Union flag. "I don't think anyone has won brownie points over this but at least the kids will be able to wear the suits they want," says the sport's chief executive, David Sparkes. A case of synch and swim.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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