GB wrestlers Butkevych and Stadnik could leave the UK

Olga Butkevych and Yana Stadnik

Ukraine-born British wrestlers Olga Butkevych and Yana Stadnik could be forced to move back to their homeland after the sport's Olympic funding axe.

In December, British Wrestling learnt it would receive no support from UK Sport for Rio 2016 then failed in a bid to overturn that decision.

Olympian Butkevych and European silver medallist Stadnik were recruited in 2007, initially as sparring partners.

They have both attained British citizenship in the past year.

Butkevych and Stadnik plan to continue competing for Great Britain, but the sport's governing body admits it is now struggling to finance a training environment fitting for elite athletes at its academy in Salford, Greater Manchester.

The pair could return to the country of their birth, but also under consideration are options to work with squads in Canada or Japan, which it is hoped would enhance their prospects of challenging for major honours for GB in the future.

"The proposed training system for Yana Stadnik and Olga Butkevych is to base them abroad at centres of excellence," British Wrestling chief executive Colin Nicholson told BBC Sport.

"Although this approach differs from the previous Olympic cycle, it provides much better value for the two wrestlers' limited funding, enabling access to a plentiful supply of world-class training partners which could not be achieved anywhere in the UK."

Britain's Olga Butkevych and Ecuador's Lissette Alexandra

British Wrestling wants to convince UK Sport - which funds elite athlete programmes - to provide at least a small amount of investment.

It is also seeking sponsorship to make up the shortfall, while money from Sport England, traditionally reserved for grass roots development, could also help.

Wrestling was not alone in suffering a post-2012 Olympic funding cut. UK Sport only considers funding for elite athletes with genuine medal prospects for the next Olympics - an approach which has helped Team GB increase their medal haul at each Games from Athens 2004 through to London 2012.

But Stadnik's 2010 European silver was considered too long ago, while her second-placed finish at this year's event came after the Rio funding award assessment.

Furthermore, Butkevych's historic World Championship bronze medal in September of last year came in the non-Olympic -59kg division.

"British Wrestling continues to believe that with adequate funding and support, both Yana Stadnik and Olga Butkevych have prospects of likely fourth to eighth [place] finishes or even possible medals at Rio 2016," said Nicholson.

Butkevych was Team GB's only wrestling representative in London because no other athletes achieved the qualification standards agreed with the British Olympic Association [BOA] ahead of the Games.

Despite completing five years of residency in the UK, Stadnik was ineligible as the complex citizenship process was not completed in time.

However, now the Manchester-based athlete has a British passport, she is determined to reach next year's Commonwealth Games with England and then compete for Team GB at the 2016 Olympics.

"My dream is to compete at an Olympic Games and because I didn't go to the London Olympics, I will be working hard to qualify for the next one," said Stadnik.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Great Britain has anything but an illustrious history in the sport of wrestling, but the influx of several Eastern European wrestlers and the return of the GB Cup, after a year off due to funding difficulties, has given the team cause for optimism. BBC Sport's Nick Hope caught up with GB's Ukranian-born wrestler Yana Stadnik, who became the first ever female to win a European Championships medal for Great Britain earlier this year.

"I am also looking forward to competing in the Commonwealth Games next year in Glasgow. After the experience of the crowd in London, I think Glasgow is going to be an amazing atmosphere."

British Wrestling's domestic struggles come against the backdrop of international concerns over the decision to drop the sport from the 2020 Olympics.

Wrestling's world governing body [Fila] will learn if it is to earn a reprieve in September, with seven other sports bidding for one place.

UK Sport says it will revisit British Wrestling's case for funding at an annual review later in the Rio Olympic cycle.

Top Stories