‘Athletes’ hopes and dreams are going to be shattered’

Mandip Sehmi scores the winning try to beat Australia in extra time  during the London 2012 wheelchair rugby test event.
Mandip Sehmi scores the winning try to beat Australia in extra time during the London 2012 wheelchair rugby test event.

In the wake of the news that wheelchair rugby has lost its funding from UK Sport, Warwick’s Mandip Sehmi speaks out about the consequences for the sport in which he represented his country at three Paralympics.

I have been involved in wheelchair rugby for over 15 years and, like so many, the sport is one of the main factors in helping me overcome my adversity of a spinal injury. And yet for all the good the sport is doing and has done, it’s facing its own adversity for the first time ever.

I can’t speak a bad word about wheelchair rugby. In my early days it gave me strength and confidence after my world had come crashing down on me and after years of graft and hard work it also gave me a career in representing Great Britain at the highest level.

I have seen first-hand the impact it has had on young lives and the community. With the same breath it’s hard to speak bad about UK Sport, they have funded us and helped create the base and platform for where the sport is today. That is why it is so hard to understand the decision to cut funding.

#Yesican was the message adopted by so many Paralympic sports for the summer games in Rio, the feeling of anything is possible because you are backed by your country.

The same games that saw our GB team lose by two points to Australia and by one to Canada in overtime resulting in a fifth-placed finish.

Arguably, this is the closest we have ever come to medalling on the world stage.

This is something everyone has recognised, including UK Sport. However, they have cut funding to zero and left the sport with the feeling of #Noyoucant.

In my eyes, wheelchair rugby is too strong to adopt this stance and I am certain the sport will still thrive.

We have the backing of GBWR ambassador and captain of England Rugby Mike Brown among a number of sponsors and partners, while CEO David Pond has already stated his commitment to having a competitive team for Tokyo 2020.

These as a collective will help gain momentum elsewhere if UK Sport decide not to overturn their decision.

But Paralympic athletes will find it very difficult to ‘make ends meet’ without the backing of UK Sport.

I hope they can re-evaluate the decision to cut the funding as the hopes and dreams of athletes coming into the sport are going to be shattered without the support of UK Sport.

Any companies or sponsors that would like to get involved should contact Sehmi via Twitter @mandipsehmi