• Softball and goalball are others to gain from ‘aspirational fund’
• Mims Davies lauds chance for athletes to shine at Tokyo 2020
Britain’s surfers, skateboarders and softball players are to receive official funding for the first time to help them qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Surfing will receive £192,500 as part of UK Sport’s new “aspirational fund”, which aims to support sports which do not receive full lottery funding to realise their Olympic and Paralympic ambitions and inspire future generations, with skateboarding getting £162,500 and softball £62,500.
The decision to give money to smaller sports is widely seen as a welcome softening of UK Sport’s hardline “no compromise” approach, where only sports with a strong chance of winning a medal received backing. It was hailed by the new sports minister, Mims Davies, who said it would allow more athletes to compete at the very top in Tokyo.
“It will help Great Britain and Northern Ireland continue to be a leading Olympic and Paralympic nation and I am sure the athletes that will benefit will inspire the nation and help their sports grow,” she said.
Eight other sports are also getting a helping hand as part of the government’s £3m investment in the aspirational fund, including wheelchair rugby (£500,000) and badminton (£259,679), which were both controversially stripped of funding after the Rio 2016 Games. In addition the Paralympic sport of goalball will receive investment.
Funding will also go to the Olympic sports of archery, beach volleyball, fencing, artistic swimming and table tennis.
Alongside their qualification plan, sports seeking funding were asked to submit details of how they will capitalise on the impact of competing at the Games and engage and inspire future generations.
Liz Nicholl, the chief executive of UK Sport, said: “This new aspiration fund is a fantastic opportunity for these athletes and sports to get on track for the Tokyo Games.
“Many of the sports we are currently unable to support, whilst further away from reaching the podium, have the potential not only to inspire through their performances on the field of play but also to inspire new audiences to engage in sport and activity.”