Pickering is upbeat despite funding cut

Craig sees athletics backing slashed by half

Olympic sprinter Craig Pickering is setting his targets high in 2009, but will be forced to do things the hard away after seeing his UK Athletics funding cut by half.

The 22-year-old from Shenley Lodge had a mixed 2008 after missing the World Indoor Championships in March with a hamstring injury before bouncing back in the summer to qualify for the Team GB 100m and the 4x100m relay at the Beijing Olympics in August.

But after the GB squad returned from China with only four medals, UK Sport took the decision to cut funding from 26.5m to 25.1m ahead of London 2012 – with a new emphasis on performance-related backing for British athletes.

The new system now consists of a three-tier funding structure, with the top level of just six athletes qualifying for a maximum award of 25,383 per year while 13 others will get the next level of 19,000 and 14 will make up the third tier of 12,600.

And Marshall Milton Keynes Athletic Club sprinter Pickering has suffered more than most with his funding downsized from the top level prior to Beijing to the bottom tier now – which includes relay squad members now being awarded funds on an individual basis rather than team.

But despite seeing his son's backing cut by half since the post-Olympic shake-up, Craig's father David insists that it should make no real difference to his level of performance in the lead up to London.

"Well it isn't going to make him run any slower," he said.

"He'll still have the same things available to him that he had before so it's not that big a problem."

Pickering's Olympic debut ended in heartbreak after he missed out on a 100m semi-final place and was a part of the British team which was disqualified in the 4x100m relay final.

Dad David insists the European Indoor Championship silver medallist has drawn a line under 2008 and is now just focused on selection for this year's European Indoor Championships and the World Championships.

"Last year is water under the bridge for Craig and now he's just hoping to be selected to represent his country in competitions this year and hopefully win a medal or two on the way."

And Pickering's 2009 season got off to an encouraging start at the South of England Championships, although there was to be no medal to show for his 60m sprint efforts.

He won all three of his qualifying rounds, recording times of 6.71s, 6.68s and 6.75s, but pulled out of the final as a precaution after feeling a slight strain.

And with the Aviva European Trials and UK Championships just around the corner in February, father David says it just wasn't worth the risk.

"He'd set some good times going into the final but he felt a problem and it wasn't worth risking anything at this stage, especially considering he had to sit out much of last season because of injury."

"Craig was slightly disappointed with last year because he wasn't able to improve after a few set-backs, but it's a new year now and he's quite optimistic."

The indoor athletics season is now in full swing with an Aviva international fixture in Glasgow this weekend setting the pace for the rest of the calendar, Bletchley long-jumper Greg Rutherford joining Pickering in the GB team.

There then follows the highlight of the year, the World Championships in Berlin in August.