Funding cuts hit deaf sports star
DEAF hammer thrower Beth Sewell has been forced to fund her trip to the World Deaf Athletics Championships in Turkey because deaf athletes are not funded by the Government.
Beth, who lives in Stroud, is missing out because public funding agency UK Sport is prioritising its investment on Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes for London 2012.
Fund crisis: Beth Sewell.
This may cause Beth, a Gloucester Athletics Club member coached by hammer British record holder Lorraine Shaw, to miss the Deaflympics in Tapei in September 2009.
"If I cannot raise the funds for the Deaflympics next year I simply won't be able to go," she said.
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"It is extremely difficult to raise funding for international competitions but it is really important that Great Britain is represented at the world championships and Deaflympics.
"Representing your country is an incredible thing and competing in sport gives deaf people a sense of belonging to the national community." Beth said the problems with funding were becoming a distraction. She said: "Getting financial help would mean everything to me, fundraising takes a lot of time. I need to be able to concentrate all my time on training and preparing for the competitions without the worry of where I am going to get the money from."
Beth, 26, gave up teaching PE and started work as a postwoman, for the Royal Mail in Salmon Springs, on less pay to allow herself more time to train.
She is second in the world deaf athletics rankings and won the European Championships in Bulgaria last year with a personal best throw of 43.33m.
The Cardiff-born athlete was deafened by meningitis when she was 13 months old and lost 100% of hearing in her left ear and 92% in her right ear.
The part of the brain that allowed her to balance was also destroyed so she had to learn to balance in a different way.
But she never gets dizzy, which she admits is a handy skill for a rotating hammer thrower.
She competes for Gloucester and Cardiff athletics clubs, but the majority of her training is done at Gloucester Athletics track with Shaw's training group The Hammeroos.
"It is such a privilege to be coached by Lorraine. She is a very good role model because she has been there and achieved," Beth said. "She has put a lot of her own unpaid time and effort in to coaching me and the rest of The Hammeroos."
Jessica Whitehorn, communications officer for UK Sport, said: "We don't specifically discriminate against certain sports and athletes. There are lots of sports and athletes worthy of funding but we can't fund everyone.
"It was decided that our focus and attention would be on Olympic and Paralympic sports and, unfortunately, the Deaflympics doesn't come under that.
"As the host nation in London 2012 we want to do the best we can possibly do."
Beth will compete on September 24 at the World Deaf Athletics Championships in Izmir, Turkey.