“I don’t have any money to put aside for a world championship fund” says Zoe Smith, a British athlete. In an exclusive interview Smith explains the costs of UK Sport’s drastic funding cuts two years ago which have left her and other top British athletes struggling to reach the Tokyo Games in 2020. “I make next to nothing,” says Zoe Smith, while being bluntly honest. “I earn pretty much just above minimum wage working at a bubble tea cafe, I don’t have any money to put aside for a world championship fund”. She confessed it with a shrug and a laugh but is London literally treating their Olympians like this?
We wonder, this time what politics might have involved to make suffer the top athletes. Being one of the wealthiest and strongest country in terms of power, money and economy and on the other hand no funds for Tokyo 2020 weight lifting ??The irony is that there is currently a real window of opportunity in the sport. Due to many doping violation, China is not competing at the current Asian Games after a one-year suspension. “Realistically if there was ever a chance to take a shot at an Olympic medal, it’s now,” says Smith. ’It just so happens that this is the one time we can’t afford to get there.”
Today an athlete like Zoe Smith is putting up with such situation of less funds. It would be a massive shame if weightlifting in the UK was to die because of under investment.
Please note that this might seem a strange situation in a country which spends £266m on Olympic funding. Rowing currently gets £31m per year. Sailing gets £26m. Canoeing £19m. Taekwondo £10m. Modern pentathlon £6m. Yet weightlifting and other outcasts don’t receive a penny.
Smith is still fundraising herself and her team mates with many sports lovers in her support, while serving coffee at Bubble Tea Cafe. Cheers to her spirit and her humour!!
“I’ve been recognised a couple of times at work,” she says.
“They say ‘Oh, are you that weightlifter?’ and then I say:
‘Do you want tapioca with that?’”