Martine Wright: Sitting volleyball can recover from devastating cuts

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport
Bomb survivor Wright wins Helen Rollason Award

Bomb attack survivor Martine Wright says GB's sitting volleyball team can recover from a "devastating" funding cut to win a 2016 Paralympic medal.

Wright won BBC Sport's Helen Rollason Award on Sunday after playing at London 2012, seven years after losing both her legs in the 7/7 London bombings.

UK Sport cut GB sitting volleyball's grant from £800,000 to nothing.

"All we need is a ball, a net, and our bottoms. We will go out and find private funding," said Wright, 40.

Sitting volleyball was one of the sports to miss out when UK Sport announced details of a record handout of £347m on Tuesday.

"We were very shocked that the whole amount was taken away, not just a percentage. We've worked as hard as any other athletes, but this is not the last you have heard of Britain's sitting volleyball team," said Londoner Wright.

Sitting volleyball cut 'stuns' chief

"My immediate reaction was devastation. We have lived and breathed sitting volleyball and for someone to say all that hard work means nothing, and it's down to medals, is tough. It's really hard to break the cycle - how can you get the medals without the money?

"Their funding of the Olympics and Paralympics overall has gone up, which is brilliant, but unfortunately - quite unbelievably for sitting volleyball - they haven't given us any money.

"We still believe in what we can do and have seen a huge improvement over the last couple of years. We believe we could win a medal out there in Rio in 2016 and hopefully can find some private sponsorship

"Two-and-a-half years ago no-one even knew what sitting volleyball was. Now we've got hundreds of kids turning up to taster days. It's really heartbreaking.

"It is one of the unique Paralympic sports in that you don't use a wheelchair. As someone reliant on a wheelchair, it's quite a liberating experience to get out and play a dynamic team sport."

Wright, who was sitting just feet away from a bomber on the London Underground, nearly died the day after London was awarded the Games.

She lost 80% of the blood in her body, was in a coma for 10 days and had surgery over a 10-month period while learning to walk again with prosthetic legs, which she removes for volleyball.

Since the terror attack, she has had a baby, got married and learned to fly a plane.

"Life gives you a few knocks. You just have to try to get over them and carry on," she said.

At the BBC Sports Personality show on Sunday she was given the award, which recognises outstanding achievement in the face of adversity, in memory of presenter Rollason.

The British women's sitting volleyball team made their Paralympic debut at London 2012, losing all five matches but almost taking sets off Ukraine, Brazil and Japan.

GB's men finished eighth, with one win from five fixtures, including their first Games victory - a 3-0 defeat of Morocco.

The Paralympic portion of the overall funds from UK Sport has risen from 16% of the total budget to 20%, with swimming, athletics and cycling all being rewarded for their success with big rises, but archery and powerlifting among those cut.

Volleyball England chief executive Lisa Wainwright said the squad had made significant progress.

"The investment requested from UK Sport was less than £500,000 per year per squad over the next four years," she said.

"We had a great experience that we all witnessed and we saw Martine Wright at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards telling her life story and how her life had changed through being a Paralympian.

"We feel the flame has well and truly been extinguished for sitting volleyball from a legacy point of view."

Richard Dobell, part of the men's GB sitting volleyball team, said on Twitter: external-link"The rest of the world excel, invest and unite in team sports. Good old GB holds true to its institutional blinkered approach."