Great Britain’s Olympic alpine team may be forced to hang up their skis owing to funding cuts only months after Charlie Guest recorded Britain’s best result for a woman on the World Cup Slalom tour in 33 years.
Dave Ryding, flag-bearer at this year’s Beijing winter Games, and Guest are among five athletes who were told their discipline would be axed from the World Class Programme. According to UK Sport, WCP funding is allocated to national governing bodies to “support sports and athletes with realistic medal capabilities at Olympic Games”.
Without that backing the group now need to raise £800,000 in the next two months, when the current cycle ends, to cover the shortfall.
“My stomach just sunk,” Guest said. “I’m in skiing, I’m very used to raising money, to finding money, to finding sponsors, but to have to find hundreds of thousands was something that was … I was just like, ‘I don’t know how I can do that.’”
Guest was part of the British team that finished joint fifth in the first-ever Olympic mixed team alpine event at Pyeongchang 2018. She was “in tears” watching her teammate Ryding become the first British winner in 55 years at the Alpine World Cup, when he took slalom gold at Kitzbuhel just weeks before being selected to carry the flag for his country. Guest said it was proof of what her squad was capable of achieving.
“There are plenty of times when you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this? I should just go home, I could just go and finish my degree, I could just get a job or whatever.’ And then you have one good race and you start thinking, ‘Yeah, actually I love doing this. I’m so proud to be part of this team,’” she said.
GB Snowsport said: “A significant portion [of the £11.9m allocated to them for the Paralympic and Olympic programmes] is ringfenced for World Class Programme funding, which we are only eligible to spend on programmes deemed eligible for WCP investment by UK Sport.
“Alpine, cross-country and Para Nordic have not been deemed WCP eligible in this cycle.”
UK Sport expressed sympathy for the alpine athletes, but agreed that the organisation’s WCP funding priorities had shifted.
“UK Sport is aiming to become an ever greater force in winter sport, while powering a broader range of sports and champions who reflect the diversity of British society,” a statement read.
GB Snowsport has launched an official appeal to UK Sport and hopes to receive a decision by October. That may be too late for Guest and her teammates, with the current funding cycle closing at the end of September.