‘Team Outcast’ and the Funding Debate


Belle Brockhoff in the Olympic start gate

Belle Brockhoff hit Aussie headlines again this week, but this time it wasn’t for such noble causes such as Principle 6. Now it was her dad weighing in after her eighth place finish in the women’s boardercross.

Bruce Brockhoff (surely a super hero with a name like that) wrote emails to Australian newspapers complaining that medal-hope Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin had received considerably more funding than other snowboard athletes, including his daughter; approximately $1 million (£540,000) compared to Belle’s $38,000.

Torah Bright bossed all her events in Sochi, her opinion is worth hearing. Photo: Nick Atkins/Scene Images

This wasn’t breaking news. For a while now the other (less well-funded) ‘Strayan riders had jokingly rallied behind the hashtag #teamoutsider, originally spear-headed by Torah Bright. However, Torah herself has refused to back daddy Brockhoff’s move, saying she was “appalled” by the comments and that, “It’s about these guys competing. It’s not about parents meddling. It’s not about using someone else as the vehicle for their own purpose,” echoing the ‘pushy parents’ debate from a couple of years ago.

It’s not about parents meddling. It’s not about using someone else as the vehicle for their own purpose – Torah Bright

In the end Alex Pullin caught an edge in the quarter finals and put him himself out of the competition. Arguably, the added pressure and media scrutiny from this story could have affected his performance; others will see it as simple bad luck since boardercross is the least predictable snowboarding event; others will jump on it as tax payer money wasted.

All of which raises some interesting questions for snowboarding in this country. Following the success of Jenny Jones and the slopestyle team, we’re all hoping it will lead to more funding, more facilities, more success and, ultimately, more people enjoying the sport. After all, if we can do this well with limited support (Britain’s first ever medal on snow and four top-ten finishes is not to be sniffed at) just imagine what we could achieve with greater backing.

But as our super hero Bruce Brockhoff touched on, with great funding come great responsibility. Or to put it another way: “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

Are we ready for the fallout when snowboarding becomes answerable to Barry Shitpeas and Katie ‘FROM HELL’ Hopkins at the Daily Mail? Just look at this guy reacting to Alex Pullin on twitter today:

Likewise, the dust had barely settled on Jenny’s bronze-medal run when this guy took to The Guardian to warn of funding such sports with “higher barriers of entry”.

Don’t get me wrong, more funding for British freestyle is both deserved and potentially game-changing, but I would argue that if we’re to avoid such ugly shit-fights then the utmost care should be taken to ensure that it’s distributed as evenly and inclusively as possible – if only to keep the braying tabloid hoard at bay.

Snowboarding feels weird enough when thrust into the mainstream like this – Jenny Jones was on Radio 4’s today show this morning – so we need to ensure we do everything we can to avoid more pressure from the Daily Mail on our athletes.

What do you think? How should any potential extra funding be utilised? And how do you feel about snowboarders being pressurised for results?

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