Sophie has her funding downgraded

Sophie Hitchon on her way to the bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer
Sophie Hitchon on her way to the bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer

Commonwealth Games hammer bronze medalist Sophie Hitchon has been downgraded from the highest “podium” level, to “podium potential” in her Lottery funding.

Essentially the change means British Athletics feel she did not fulfil their strict criteria of challenging for a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and subsequently joins the list of athletes on the second tier funding aimed at athletes capable of winning medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

That is despite claiming her first senior medal - in her first season as a senior - with her bronze success in Glasgow, while illness cost her a place in the final of the European Championships in Zurich in August.

“It is really tough,” said British Athletics performance director Neil Black.

“We have been through a process in the past with there being an emphasis on making finals and now it’s about medals.

“We do need to remind ourselves that medals are the fundamental basis for being on the programme. To project into the future is not an easy thing to do.”

Athletes such as Lynsey Sharp, who won 800m silvers at the Commonwealths and Europeans, and sprinter Jodie Williams, who won four medals across the two competitions, have been upgraded from the second tier to podium level – which can mean a financial boost of up to £27,737 for the year, as well as coaching, physiotherapy and medical support.

On Podium Funding, are the likes of Holly Bleasdale, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah, Adam Gemili, Dai Greene, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Christine Ohuruogu, Greg Rutherford and Perri Shakes-Drayton, while Podium Potential Funding athletes include Sophie’s training partner Mark Dry and Eilish McColgan, daughter of Liz McColgan-Nuttall.