Funding blow for Kiwi pursuiter Alison Shanks

SIMON PLUMB AND DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:16 26/05/2013
Alison Shanks
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
BUILDING CASH RESERVES: Alison Shanks is not deemed a funding priority this year by BikeNZ.

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Bike New Zealand is holding up to $500,000 of elite, government funding in reserve while cutting world champion Alison Shanks from this year's international budget.

Shanks, 30, the 2009 and 2012 individual pursuit world champion, confirmed to the Sunday Star-Times that BikeNZ has not budgeted for her to compete in any overseas events this year, including world cup meets - a scenario that would make qualification for February's world championships in Colombia impossible.

Shanks also said the reduced funding gave her a convenient opportunity to undergo required hip surgery next month.

While BikeNZ retained $3.9 million in elite funding in a post-Olympic year, the national cycling body wanted more. After failing to convince the Crown, they deemed Shanks a non-priority.

However, the Sunday Star-Times can reveal BikeNZ does not plan to spend all of that money, diverting up to half-a-million dollars into a "reserve".

BikeNZ's decision on Shanks follows the International Olympic Committee axing the individual pursuit ahead of the London Games. The women's team pursuit is on the Olympic programme, which Shanks helped New Zealand finish fifth at London 2012, but BikeNZ has also dropped that event as a 2013 funding priority.

"What they [BikeNZ] have said this year is that we're not being sent overseas, so we're not getting sent to any of the world cup meets. That means we won't be able to go to the world championships either, which is pretty disappointing," Shanks told the Star-Times.

"New Zealand is seen as one of the big competing nations on the track circuit and to not have the women's team represented is really disappointing.

"I am having keyhole surgery on my hip socket, I have got a labral tear and this is a good time to get that fixed. It will give me a real good indication of where I'm at and a big period to build for Glasgow, which is my next aim."

However, when the Star-Times spoke with chairman Richard Leggat and high performance director Mark Elliott last night, they said BikeNZ's intention was to restore the women's pursuit programme next year - hoping Shanks can remain world-class off a lesser-funded, domestic programme.

Elliott also said BikeNZ hadn't completely ruled out sending Shanks to a world cup event this year, saying: "If she was showing form that suggested she could win a world title, of course we'd consider it."

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Of the $3.9m granted by the Government for elite athletes this year, BikeNZ has only budgeted $1.4m for "campaign investments". Elliott admitted BikeNZ is building a cash reserve, intended to be between $400,000 and $500,000 by the end of the year.

"We have a reserve going forward to 2016 on the premise there's no more money coming into high performance," he said.

"We want to make sure there are reserves for those critical two years leading in to the Rio Olympics."

Alex Baumann, HPSNZ chairman, said Shanks was in a "rare and unfortunate" situation which leaves Linda Villumsen, who was fourth in the London 2012 time trial, as the only Kiwi female receiving international funding in road or track cycling.

Meanwhile, BikeNZ will not be replacing Ken Cools as national BMX coach, with the position being dissolved.

Cools, who was part of Sarah Walker's Olympic silver medal campaign last year, quit in October and his role is now filled by another employee, Ryan Hollows.

Fellow London 2012 coach Justin Grace resigned earlier this month, leaving a hole in the men's sprint programme while the organisation is also looking for a CEO.

- Sunday Star Times

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