UK Athletics defends decision to fund Mo Farah as 24 athletes miss out

• Funding maintained for Farah despite hints over quitting GB team
• Tiffany Porter, Shara Proctor and James Ellington among 24 to miss out

UK Athletics has vigorously defended the decision to keep Mo Farah on funding - and insisted that Britain’s most successful athlete will go for glory over 26.2 miles at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Critics of the decision to award Farah World Class Performance Programme funding - which was revealed by the Guardian on Thursday - have argued that not only is the 34-year-old yet to prove he is a top marathoner but also hinted barely three months ago that he was unlikely to run for Britain again.

Given the 34-year-old’s high training and medical costs, it could be argued that UK Athletics’ money would be better spent elsewhere. However UK Athletics’ performance director, Neil Black, is confident that Farah can prove the sceptics wrong by winning yet another Olympic medal. “Mo is very positive about Tokyo,‚Äù said Black. ‚ÄúHis words are ’As long as I am fit, healthy and competitive I will run the marathon in Tokyo’. He has always said he loves competing for his country and he loves winning medals. And as we all know he is pretty good at both of those.”

Black also claimed that Farah was capable of running much faster than his marathon personal best of 2hr 08m 21 sec, run in his only full attempt in 2014, saying: “We know that in 2014 if he’d probably run the marathon about four weeks earlier we think he would have run significantly faster. And there’s absolutely no doubt in our minds that he can be competitive in a championship race.”

Black also dismissed suggestions that UK Athletics should not be paying for Farah’s training, given he is not committed to running for Britain in next year’s European Championships or at the 2019 World Championships and will be nearly 38 by the time of the next Olympics. “Mo doesn’t have an expectation that British Athletics or UK Sport should pay for everything he does,” said Black. “He is a realist. He understands the world. He is grateful for support and is enthusiastic to compete. We will have common sense and honest conversations.”

Some reports have claimed that Farah’s former coach, Alberto Salazar, will remain as a hidden puppet master pulling the strings behind the scenes, but Black insisted this was “100% not the case” and that he had a “good relationship” with his new coach Gary Lough.

Farah will be joined on podium-level funding by the young marathon runner Callum Hawkins, who finished fourth at the recent world championships in London, and the hammer thrower Nick Miller, who was sixth in his event.

However a number of big names are among 24 British athletes to lose their lottery money. They include the world championship medallists Tiffany Porter and Shara Proctor, who have both struggled this year in the 100m hurdles and long jump respectively, and the sprinters Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and James Ellington.

Black also defended the decision not to put Laura Weightman, who was sixth over 1500m at the world championships, back on funding. “Laura has had a brilliant 2017 but she’s looking at her future and she’s not certain on which event she’ll concentrate on going forwards,” he said, pointing out she was exploring running the 3,000m steeplechase and 5,000m. “She’s not sure if she’ll be a 1500m runner in the future and that would be the only event we could look at.”

That reasoning, however, is curious given UK Athletics’ decision to fund Farah for an event he has little experience in either.

Meanwhile, the World Para Athletics Championships gold medallists Olivia Breen, Sophie Kamlish and Sammi Kinghorn have been moved up to Paralympic podium funding.


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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