Olympic athletes to get slice of €5.3m funding pie

OLYMPIC athletes will receive more than €2m out of a total of €5.3m in funding announced by Sports Minister, John O’Donoghue, yesterday.

The €2.084m to be shared among athletes from world class down to development levels, in addition to another €2.185 million invested in 11 sports under the Athens Enhancement Programme, completed a €5.3 million bonanza for Irish sport.

Mr O’Donoghue also gave his commitment to the development of Sports Stadium Ireland alongside the world class aquatic centre at Abbotstown.

He said that while it might have been lost in the euphoria that surrounded Tuesday’s Lansdowne Road announcement, he regarded the development of the campus as pivotal to Irish sport.

“The government has decided to proceed with the development of campus of sporting facilities at Abbotstown to complement the National Aquatic Centre,” he said.

“This will further endorse the availability of modern state-of-the-art sporting facilities which can benefit every sportsman and woman whether they are elite, high performing or just aspiring winners.”

This year 229 athletes from 20 sports ­ junior squads in 13 sports - will be supported by a special Carding Scheme but it is the funding under the scheme that is important.

Leading medal hopefuls for Athens will receive up to €30,500 in funding and they include the Sydney silver medallist, Sonia O’Sullivan, race walker Gillian O’Sullivan, who won a silver medal at last year’s world championships and rowers Sam Lynch and Gearóid Towey ­ bronze medallists at last year’s world championships.

Paul McKee, a bronze medallist in the 400m at last year’s world indoor championships, gets €22,900 while the lightweight four oarsmen, Richard Archibald, Paul Griffin, Eugene Coakley and Tim Harnedy each get €20,000.

Clay target shooters David Malone and Derek Burnett also come into the category and get €22,900 each as does light heavyweight boxer, Kenneth Egan.

Top sailors Mark Mansfield, Maria Coleman and Killian Collins are rewarded for their world class ranking with grants of €30,500 each.

Mr O’Donoghue pointed out that the funding for High Performance sport was not provided in isolation and, last week, the Irish Sports Council, had allocated €6.8 million in grant-aid to 54 sports, complementing the full range of programmes operated by the council for the benefit of Irish Sport.

Irish Sports Council chief, John Treacy, said that irrespective of medals, this Irish team for the Olympic Games in Athens will be the best prepared team of all time. “We have invested heavily in this team but it is money well spent,” he said.

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