Top British fencers are told they will lose funding

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Sport
Shoppers cross swords with Olympic hopefuls

Some of Britain's top fencers have been told they will lose their funding, BBC Sport has learned.

The sport is embarking on wholesale changes following disappointing results at the 2010 World Championships and this month's European Championships.

New performance director Alex Newton recently said there were "significant things we can do differently in a very short space of time".

Epee fencer Jon Willis said he was "devastated" to be losing funding.

Willis, 30, was ranked as high as 27th in the world at the end of 2010 but British Fencing, who had promised to implement radical changes, has removed him from the sport's World Class Programme.

"I'm totally devastated to be told this morning that I have not been selected for the programme," Willis said on Twitter.

"I'm having a weekend in York to think about my future."

Willis had been the UK's number one epee fencer but struggled for consistency at an international level.

Other fencers are believed to be similarly affected.

Of fencing's three disciplines - epee, foil and sabre - the men's foil squad is considered the best prospect for an Olympic medal next year.

But they and the rest of the British team failed to deliver medals at either the 2010 World Championships in Paris or this month's European event in Sheffield.

Following the latter disappointment, Newton - appointed in May and formerly employed by funding body UK Sport - told BBC Sport: "We start on 1 August with something fundamentally different to the way we've done things in the past.

"We're at a mini-watershed now. I've identified all the issues we need to address and we have between the Euros and the Worlds [in Sicily this October] to start work on that."

As well as reducing the number of fencers receiving funding, the new regime will include fundamental alterations to training, use of science and medicine, and pre-fight preparation.

Britain has not won an Olympic fencing medal since 1964.