Inside Lines: Why is no one listening to the plight of Britain's deaf athletes?

Alan Hubbard
Sunday 20 February 2011 01:00

Just as well that Britain sent no athletes to the Winter Deaflympics in the High Tatras of Slovakia last week.

The event had to be scrapped because apparently the local organiser did a downhill runner with the money. Police are pursuing him.

Britain was not represented among 800 putative competitors largely because we could not afford to send anyone. Deaf athletes are easily the poor relations of disability sport, their meagre Government funding having ceased because of other priorities.

"UK Sport [sport's principal funding distributors] have made it explicitly clear that because the Government is focusing on the Olympic and Paralympic Games there is no money available for deaf athletes, of which there are thousands," says Mark Dolley, a former International Olympic Committee communications director newly appointed as chief executive of the UK-based International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.

"The Government is picking up the entire £95 million tab for the Paralympics but not a penny for deaf athletes." Who are not represented in the Paralympics, incidentally.

Britain's Craig Cowley, the international body's president, has fought to get greater recognition for deaf sport in this country but says: "Doors seem constantly closed to us and we are very concerned for the future."

The Deaflympics in Taipei two years ago saw 3,700 take part in 21 sports. The next event is in Athens in 2013 and Britain would like to be represented. Isn't it time we stopped turning a deaf ear?

Two nice ones together

Lord Coe took time out last week from telling us that London 2012 is just the ticket – albeit an expensive one – to impress on the TUC how important it is to play the game over the Games. Ideally he would like to broker some sort of truce with unions to avoid embarrassing, disruptive industrial action, particularly on the transport front.

No doubt it has crossed his mind that two nice ones together for the opening ceremony – at £2,012 a throw – in the name of Mr R Crow and partner might smooth the way.

Anna's all heart

Gary Lineker has called her "the most extraordinary sportswoman I have ever met"; she was Britain's most enduring and consistently successful one.

Anna Hemmings retired last year, after winning six world canoe marathon championships and competing in two Olympics, to concentrate on a career as a motivational speaker and embark with her husband, Neil, on a revolutionary project which she claims gets to the very heart of sport.

Heartmath, first developed in California, is said to "identify a psycho-physiological state in which the interactions between the heart, brain and nervous systems become synchronised to help athletes get in the zone for optimal performance".

As one who has always doubted that sport and shrinks necessarily make a winning team, it sounds rather like sports scientology. But Hemmings presents a convincing case, citing success with the golfer Ian Woosnam.

"Heartmath is about changing your physiology. If you can change this you can change the way you think and feel and this affects your behaviour and ultimately your performance." At 34 she is preparing for another marathon, the London run, to raise money for SportsAid.

"They helped me when I was competing so it is nice to be able to give something back." A heartfelt gesture, no less. You can support her on

Boxing's count of 10

As the Amateur Boxing Association of England try to ward off a bloody nose over alleged irregularities, which we reported here last week, in the ring GB boxers continue to punch above their weight.

Led by European bantamweight champion Luke Campbell, who won gold, they amassed 10 medals in prestigious events in Bulgaria and Hungary, including bronze for Natasha Jonas, who fought valiantly against the world's best female fighter, Ireland's Kathy Taylor.

A brilliant start to 2011 which augurs well for 2012.

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