Goalball star’s Paralympic hopes dashed

FUNDING APPEAL Brittany Stead is hoping businesses will help her realise her Paralympic dream. (D525E341)
FUNDING APPEAL Brittany Stead is hoping businesses will help her realise her Paralympic dream. (D525E341)

A young sport star’s dreams of representing her country at the Paralympics in 2016 have been put on hold due to funding cuts.

Brittany Stead, 17, pictured, who is severely sight impaired, plays goalball for Great Britain and was hoping to be part of Team GB at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil.

But UK Sport, which invests £100m of public money in sport every year, has cut goalball funding, meaning Brittany, of Spen Lane, Gomersal, now faces the challenge of raising enough cash to get her and her team-mates to Rio.

She said: “UK Sport have to make a decision professionally but it affects us personally. They see what’s on paper rather than us at training and competitions.

“They would love to fund everybody but they have only got so much money. “

Goalball is designed for blind and visually impaired athletes. Two opposing teams of three blindfolded players try to score goals by throwing a ball into the other team’s net. The ball has a bell inside and is the same size as a basketball but twice as heavy. It can travel at up to 60mph.

Brittany has worked her way up to top flight goalball after taking it up just three years ago with encouragement from her mobility officer and goalball coach, Stuart Adams, who helps her find her way round new places.

She now trains six days a week and hopes to turn professional.

She said: “I didn’t want to play at first – it looked scary!

“I really didn’t like it at first. I used to curl up in a ball, but Stuart said, ‘you can do it’. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be in the Great Britain squad.

“The funding from UK Sport would pay for training, competitions and accommodation. It’s disappointing that we have lost it but we are still going to try our best to get the money to get to the qualifying event so there is still a route to Rio.

“We’re also hoping to get local businesses to give corporate sponsorship or funding to give us a boost.

“To go to the Paralympics at the age of 19 would be amazing.”

UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl said sports affected by cuts could appeal in autumn if they could show they had a realistic opportunity to win a medal in 2016 or 2020.

She said: “These are tough calls to make and we know that it is even tougher for the sports and athletes directly affected by funding withdrawal. We will also work with these sports to help manage this transition, and shape their future plans.”