Skiing: Bell tolls for downhill hero

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Mike Jardine, the chief executive of the British Ski Federation, has blamed the Sports Council's inadequate funding for the decision of Martin Bell, Britain's most successful downhill skier, to quit.

The retirement of Bell, 30, the British No 1 for 14 years, leaves his brother, Graham, as the country's only full-time professional on the world circuit.

"Without the funding to properly support our top skiers the situation is becoming desperate," Jardine said.

Bell, who was eighth in the 1988 Winter Olympics, is no longer prepared to pay £8,000 a year of his own money and has decided to pursue a career in television.

"Our biggest problem," Jardine said, "is trying to cope with the Sports Council's decision to reduce our annual grant over the next three years, down from £300,000 to £120,000. Even back in 1985 we received £250,000."

"That this can happen when the National Lottery should be the salvation of British sport is both depressing and unbelievable."