It’s bad news for the UK’s top snowboard cross talent; Zoe Gillings has lost her Olympic funding.
Zoe has long been the dominiant force in snowboard cross on these shores, with British titles and FIS podiums galore, as well as representing Team GB at the last three Olympics. In Sochi she missed out on a place in the final by the narrowest of margins, the photo-finish putting her in 4th with only the top three progressing to the final. Unfortunately that would prove costly, as only an appearance in the final would keep her funding secure.
What’s more, the entire snowboard cross Olympic program – a team of support staff including coach, sports psychologist and nutritionist – has been disbanded. Any event that Zoe can afford to compete at, she’ll be on her own. Despite the bad news she’s been nothing but classy, saying she “fully respects” the decision:
It’s obviously disappointing but my Performance Director made it very clear to me that UK Sport wanted a top six finish at the Olympics to continue funding – I knew this way ahead of the Olympic Games, so I’m not complaining. I was gutted when I realised I missed out on the final when I watched the photo finish on the big screen – it was literally centimetres that meant I finished 4th and this ended the funding.
She also took the time to thank UK Sport for all the funding she’s received until now, and singled out British Ski & Snowboard’s performance director Paddy Mortimer for specific praise:
I can say hand on heart he is absolutely athlete focussed and is a true credit to BSS. He says it how it is, he is honest and does everything he can to support the athlete. Despite not being funded I’m really looking forward to working with Paddy over the next Olympic cycle if I can raise the funds.
This isn’t the end for Zoe, then – and she’s no stranger to being proactive when it comes to this side of her career, setting up her own business Isle Of Deals to keep her travel budget afloat during a previous funding crisis. She’s now lauched PoundShaveClub.com, based on a successful American model that delivers shaving razors to your door for a mere quid per month.
With another two businesses in the pipeline – as well as her wedding, later this month – she’s got a lot on her plate, but remains as committed to the sport as ever and is already planning her 2014/15 season. We wish her all the best, and hope to see her lining up in the start gate at Pyeongchang 2018.