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September 19, 2017

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Volleyball bounced out of UK Sport funding

LONDON -- Try telling Britain's volleyball, basketball and handball players that London 2012 was a watershed moment in their bid for recognition on the world stage and you will get a curt response following funding cuts announced by UK Sport on Tuesday.

Britain fielded a men's Olympic basketball team for the first time since the previous London Games in 1948 while its male and female indoor volleyball and handballers were Olympic debutants, performing admirably if without much success.

It might be a long wait before they get another chance, however, after UK Sport, which finances elite sport in Britain, pulled the plug on their funding despite an 11 percent overall rise in investment for the 2016 Rio Games compared to London.

Staying loyal to its "no compromise" policy, UK Sport revealed a four-year funding program for 42 sports it says will help the British team surpass the 65 Olympic and 120 Paralympic medals they harvested in London.

In essence, money will be poured into the sports that Britain already excels at, cycling and rowing being the biggest beneficiaries with in excess of 30 million pounds each, while others with little realistic chance of medals in Brazil will be left to their own devices.

Sports such as swimming, which failed to deliver in London with only three medals and no golds, have effectively been put on report. Swimming had four million pounds chopped from its Olympic program and has a year to prove it is worthy of the 21 million pounds it has been allocated.

British Boxing, whose athletes won three golds in London, was also warned to sort out its organizational issues if it is to receive its increased 13 million pounds windfall.

The real losers, though, were the team sports in which Britain has little international heritage but, with great fanfare, were awarded host-nation places at the London Olympics.

"I'm still trying to absorb it really," British Volleyball president Richard Callicott told Reuters.

"What I can say is that I'm shocked and stunned.

"To all intents and purposes this decision shows that despite how well we have done, UK Sport cannot see the significant progress we have made from a standing start.

"I dispute their argument that we don't have the talent to win medals, what we don't have is the program and how are we supposed to put that in place without any funding," added Callicott, who said he would appeal against the decision.

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