Olympic medalists slam funding cuts

GB badminton Olympic bronze medal winners Marcus Ellis, left, and Chris Langridge with their medals.

GB badminton Olympic bronze medal winners Marcus Ellis, left, and Chris Langridge with their medals. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

Great Britain’s triumphant Olympic medal-winning duo Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge have described UK Sport’s decision to cut funding for badminton from next year as a ‘kick in the face’.

The pair, who visited Welwyn Garden City earlier this month, defied the odds to grab a bronze medal in the men’s doubles at Rio 2016, GB’s first-ever in the category and only their third-ever podium finish in badminton at the Olympics.

That medal met UK Sport’s demanded achievement quota for the Games but the organisation has still decided to pull all of the sport’s £5.74m funding, along with four others including wheelchair rugby and fencing.

The cuts come just months into the next four-year cycle ahead of Tokyo 2020, and are subject to an appeal.

An online Badminton England petition to fight the decision has been launched and currently boasts over 18,000 signatures and the duo are hoping it has the desired effect.

Speaking on their visit to Stanborough School, WGC, St Albans-based Ellis said: “It’s a kick to the face after what we achieved in Rio.

“We feel it isn’t fair and we want to get some sort of justice.

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“Without that funding we wouldn’t be able to play tournaments and have the coaches that we’ve got and all the support staff, all the way through from our strength and conditioning coaches to people that sort out the finances of the sport.

“It’s a massive team behind the players and it all has to be funded and paid for. We wouldn’t have performed in Rio like we did without them.”

Langridge added: “If we’re honest we were told we needed to achieve zero to one medal. We got a medal and a fifth-place finish so technically on paper we’ve over-achieved so for us to not get any funding once we’ve over-achieved, we just don’t understand.

“There were other sports that didn’t perform as well as they were supposed to and they still got funding so for us it’s total confusion.

“If we didn’t achieve the medal then maybe we could understand, but sorry, we did.

“In the UK badminton is small while in Asia it is massive.

“We are facing countries like China who put an unbelievable amount of wealth going into badminton, probably 50/60 times what we have going into badminton and they have a much bigger population so it’s a massive sport.

“To compete against them it is tough and we have done really well.

“We don’t expect to be lavished with gifts.

“All we want is a chance to prove ourselves in the future, and hopefully at Tokyo, but even [just at] the upcoming tournaments. We want to prove we are one of the best teams in the world.”

On their visit to Welwyn Hatfield which also included a trip to St John’s Lemsford and Ellis taking part in demonstrations at Herts Sports Village, the pair said: “They’ve [our visits] have been really good. The amount of kids that have said they have understood badminton more, said they want to play and feel inspired, which is the important thing for us, has been excellent.

“We wanted to come here to make a difference, as we do at each school we visit and we feel that is happening.”