Coach urges funding rethink

FUNDING CALL: Should minority sports get a better deal from Sport New Zealand?
FUNDING CALL: Should minority sports get a better deal from Sport New Zealand?

Timaru-based international speed skating coach Bill Begg is calling for High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) to change the way it spends its money after performance of the New Zealand team at the Winter Olympics.

Begg believes HPSNZ is unfair in the way it treats minor sports outside the summer and winter Olympics.

He points to the fact three time 15,000m points elimination world champion and World Games gold medallist Peter Michael misses out on funding, yet ice speed skater Shane Dobbin, who finished seventh in the 10,000m event at Sochi, receives annual grants worth about $50,000.

Begg said the funding model was wrong.

"How many ice speed skaters do we have. Shane grew up inline skating and switched to ice when he was almost past 30."

Dobbin is now 34 and talking another Olympics, which no doubt will be funded, he said.

Begg's frustration was also the fact the new generation of inline skaters may also switch to ice if their is no incentive provided by HPSNZ.

"We put in the hard work and they are snatched because HPSNZ ignores us."

He said in terms of consecutive world titles Michael is second only to Valerie Adams, who is funded.

"Yes, shot put is an Olympic sport but how many shot putters do we really have, I think their would be more speedskaters."

Begg also wants HPSNZ to cut out funding athletes earning $100,000 or more.

HPSNZ chief executive Alex Baumann said inline speed skating did not fit the criteria, specifically having 40 countries compete at their world championships.

Baumann said it was not easy deciding where funds would go but their focus was on sports and athletes that have medal potential at the Olympic Games, non-Olympic targeted sports that can win at world championships as well as sports and athletes that have gold medal potential at the Paralympic Games.

The only targeted sport receiving funding for world championships campaigns was netball, he said.

"We are pretty transparent to where the money goes."

Baumann said the demand for the $62 million they had to administer was huge and they are never going to please everyone. The door was not, however, shut for Michael who could apply as an individual for a campaign, he said.

South-African born New Zealand boxer Alexis Pritchard and canoe slalom competitor Luka Jones both received individual funding last year as did surfer Paige Hareb previously.

Baumann said he had empathy for the passionate coaches like Begg, but sometimes athletes also switched because they wanted to reach the pinnacle in a sport.

"They have aspirations for a higher level."

As for a monetary cut-off for athletes, Baumann said it had been discussed but "means testing was difficult" and there was no simple solution.

Golfer Lydia Ko was receiving money as she made the transition to a professional, he said.

Baumann said while no medals were won at the Winter Olympics, there were four top-eight finishes and 11 top 16 which was a huge improvement from the previous four years.

He believed it fitted with the "adventure spirit" of New Zealanders.

Baumann said one challenge was the shift from extreme sports to high performance.

"We fund Snow Sports New Zealand and they decide where the money goes."

The Timaru Herald