Walking beats running in Irish high performance cash grants
The walkers were the winners on today’s (March 26th) Athletics Ireland announcement of €906k in cash grants and support.
Of the €188,000 marked for Irish Sports Council Direct Support for top three tier (podium, world class, international) carded athletes, €76,000 goes to the race walkers (Robert Heffernan, Laura Reynolds, Brendan Boyce and Alex Wright) and they just shade the average grant from the track athletes – €19k to €18.7k.
Walkers shade average grant money investment
Track athletes: €18.7k
Three tier funding grants
There are three main tiers for top level funding:
Podium – €40,000
World Class – €20,000
International – €12,000
Heffernan only athlete on podium funding
Robert Heffernan is the only athlete on the top tier, podium, of funding and he will be allocated €40,000 due in no small part to his world championship gold in Moscow in 2013 – to be eligible for podium funding you must have medalled at world or Olympic level in the last two years.
English leads five athletes on world class funding
Mark English leads the next tier of athletes on €20,000 alongside Fionnuala Britton, Paul Robinson, Ciarán Ó Lionáird and Thomas Barr. English and Robinson had standout performances at the European championships in Zurich finishing the third and fourth respectively in the 800m and 1500m. Thomas Barr joined up with Mark English in the 4 by 400m relay to finish 5th in the Europeans in a new Irish record and also set a new national 400m hurldes record earlier in the summer.
Brian Gregan and race walkers Brendan Boyce, Alex Wright and Laura Reynolds make up the third tier of top level funding. Boyce recently qualified for the world championships and the Olympics at the Dudince 50km in Slovakia.
Walkers success rewarded but what does it mean for track
The walkers were the winners in the latest round of funding and generally they have seen to be the most professional and streamlined unit of the High Performance end. That coupled with their results has seen them average a higher investment. If we’re honest though it’s the track where we want to see the most success and generates the main headlines for the sport – the ‘sexier’ side of the sport if you want to look at it from that viewpoint. The challenge is greater to medal on the world stage on the track so it is difficult to attain top level funding.
So potentially this should lead to a change in the funding set-up. €40,000 investment appears too big for one athlete and there has been a greater move to support services and discretionary funding for athletes. Obviously the challenge for race walkers is their commercial opportunities and kit sponsorship is limited so the need for €40,000 might be necessary. However, in general, there is a big gap (€20,000) from world class to podium in funding and a more streamlined approach may see a higher number of athletes on world class funding of €20,000.
Senior training camp investment a necessity
It’s good to see an outline for greater investment in training camps but it is key to start investing in senior training camps like this forthcoming Easter period. There will be a junior camp starting on Sunday in Albufeira but there has been a distinct lack of full senior training camp for a number of years. There has been good funding for individual training camps in the last couple of years but it would be great to see a full senior training camp.
Field still fallow
Worryingly there are no field athletes on the top three tiers of funding and this will be a big challenge to overturn. There needs to be a big investment in the field – an area where we can achieve much success, like the walks, if funded. Obviously this all depends on budgetary constraints but it is a definite avenue of success.
How about performance funding for coaches
Performance funding for coaches may be a creative way forward to reward coaches. How about outlining podium, world class and international carding for coaches if they achieve certain criteria. This could inspire coaches to find and coach top level athletes with financial reward.
More funding by numbers
€260,000 – Additional AAI HP Direct Support for all 118 carded athletes with cash grants of derived from the Association and the High Performance budgets.
€458,000 – Investment in high performance support services, competition and training camps
Support services: include access to medics, physiotherapist’s physiologists, nutritionists and strength and conditioning experts through the Irish Institute of Sport.
Competition: 10 European Championships and Three World Championships coupled with the increasing number of athletes hitting standards which will need significant investment to support.
Training Camps: 2015 is a key stepping stone towards performance in Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 now over the half way point in the Olympic cycle. Athletes who have been identified as having potential will be given the opportunity to attend altitude and warm weather camps which are seen as integral in preparation for major championships.
High Performance Director view
Kevin Ankrom, High Performance Director, said: “Overall we are very pleased with the funding secured for the High Performance programme allowing for the appropriate support to be given to athletes in what is a key year on the road to Rio 2016 as well as those athletes who will be looking to Tokyo 2020.
“The support received is also a reflection of how we are on track to delivering the medal opportunities identified in the High Performance Strategic Plan and we are starting to see returns in terms of the investment with more athletes coming in at the entry level of carding and progressing through the system.”
To read the 2015 Athlete Carding scheme click here