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Published in Sports Management 2014 issue 1
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Lizzy Yarnold, Olympic Gold Medalist

"I realised it wasn’t only my medal, it actually belonged to a lot of people"

To win an Olympic gold medal is an impressive feat. To do that representing a country with limited facilities even more so. But for an athlete with limited access to facilities and only five years’ worth of experience in the sport to become Olympic champion is something else.

And that’s exactly what happened when Lizzy Yarnold raced the skeleton to Olympic gold, following in the footsteps of Amy Williams, who won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The UK’s only provision for training in the skeleton is a 140m concrete push-start facility at the University of Bath, which enables skeleton athletes to hone their starts without ice.

“I think – as the medals show – that we know we can perform even though we don’t have our own track,” said Lizzy, speaking to Sports Management. “It is a bit of a disadvantage compared with those nations who have a lot of ice on which to test and test their equipment, but what we do is try to focus on those things that we can do well and improve on – whether it’s nutrition, physical training or the training track in Bath. I think that’s what we’ll continue to do to get the best athletes from UK Sport, have the best coaches that we do have and just know what we’re good at and just focus on more things.”

Yarnold, who initially trained as a heptathlete and was aiming to be picked for the modern pentathlon programme when she attended the Girls4Gold selection day in 2009, has been supported in sport from a young age.

“It started from when I was about 13 at Tonbridge AC, my local club,” she says. “Volunteers and parents would come and coach us and it was from there up until when I was at university – and then through the Girls4Gold scheme – that the lottery funding helped me train full-time.”

British Skeleton received a total of £2.1m of National Lottery and Exchequer investment from UK Sport in the four years leading up to the Vancouver Games and Amy Williams' gold medal saw this rise to £3.4m for Sochi, making skeleton the most funded British winter sport. Gaining consecutive gold medals at Winter Olympics will likely mean a further increase in funding for the Skeleton discipline – something which Lizzy was very aware of.

“Before the Games it was all about getting the medal,” she says. “But as soon as I got it I realised it wasn’t only my medal, it belonged to a lot of people and the real use and benefit of it is that it will help people so they can follow their dreams get to the Winter Olympics and hopefully bring back some more medals.”

Details: www.britishskeleton.co.uk

Lizzy Yarnold
Lizzy Yarnold
Lizzy Yarnold became the fourth skeleton medallist in as many Winter Games, dating back to 2002 / PHOTO: Phil Searle
Lizzy Yarnold became the fourth skeleton medallist in as many Winter Games, dating back to 2002/ PHOTO: Phil Searle

Andy Murray, Wimbledon champion and owner of the Cromlix

"I'm pleased to be able to give something back to the community I grew up in"

Andy Murray's luxury hotel, the Cromlix, is due to open on 1 April 2014. Wimbledon champion Murray bought the hotel in January 2013; it is currently undergoing extensive renovation to re-establish it as a luxury destination. The hotel is situated close to Murray's home town of Dunblane and was the venue for his brother Jamie's wedding in 2010.

It is set in 34 acres of secluded woodlands and will feature 15 rooms, including five suites, and a Chez Rouz restaurant offering fine dining using locally-sourced produce. The estate also has its own private chapel, making the venue ideal for weddings.

“I’m really looking forward to the hotel getting up and running,” said Murray. “By re-establishing Cromlix as a leading luxury hotel at the heart of the Dunblane community we'll be able to attract new visitors to the area, create new jobs and focus on supporting other local businesses. I’m pleased to be able to give something back to the community.”

Cromlix is being managed on behalf of Murray by Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI), which also manages eight other independent properties in Scotland. The hotel is already fully booked for the Ryder Cup in September, which takes place close by at Gleneagles.

The Cromlix estate dates back to the 15th century. The house was rebuilt after a fire in 1880 and was converted from a private residence to a luxury hotel in 1981.

Details: www.cromlix.com

Andy Murray, Wimbledon champion
Andy Murray, Wimbledon champion
Murray bought the £1.8m hotel in January 2013 with the aim of establishing it as a five-star property
Murray bought the £1.8m hotel in January 2013 with the aim of establishing it as a five-star property

Paul Thorogood, CEO of The Football Foundation

"There's never enough money to satisfy demand"

The Football Foundation recently announced that it has now supported more than £1bn-worth of grassroots sports projects – and the spending is far from over. Grassroots football facilities in England are set to benefit from a further £102m of investment over the next three years.

The foundation’s CEO, Paul Thorogood says: “Since the foundation was formed in 2000 we’ve funded 12,000 grassroots projects worth over £1bn. £490m of that has come directly from our funding partners, the Premier League, The FA and the government (via Sport England), while a further £651m has been secured via partnership funding.

“As well as providing an essential component for developing the game at the grassroots level and increasing participation levels, we are seeking to provide the essential link between the grassroots and the professional game, which has been missing up until now.”

The Football Foundation is the UK’s largest sports charity; funded by the Premier League, The Football Association and the government, the foundation directs around £30m every year into grassroots sport. It receives money from the very top of the professional game and also from the DCMS through Sport England. It then uses this money to leverage even more partnership funding to deliver a programme of new and improved community sports facilities in towns and cities.

Thorogood, who was named the foundation’s CEO in 2006, led the organisation through the years when public spending was under pressure.

“There is never enough money to satisfy demand, and our greatest strength is our ability to identify where investment will have the greatest impact,” he says. “We squeeze every possible benefit from our investment. We don’t just sign a cheque and walk away, just hoping that the investment will deliver. We’re helping to stimulate the economy too.

“A report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research analysed 80 of our facility projects. Building these contributed £53m to UK GDP; supported nearly 5,000 jobs, benefitting 1,050 local firms and generating £7.73 for the economy from every pound invested.”

The foundation also delivers the Barclays Spaces for Sports community programme, which has developed more than 200 multi-sports facilities, and the mayor of London’s Olympic Legacy programme, which has delivered more than 100 sites across the capital to date.

Details: www.footballfoundation.org.uk

Thorogood joined the foundation in 2006
Thorogood joined the foundation in 2006
A number of former players act as ambassadors to the foundation – such as England star Alan Shearer
A number of former players act as ambassadors to the foundation – such as England star Alan Shearer

Norman Foster, Foster + Partners

"SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city"

Norman Foster + Partners, alongside Exterior Architecture and Space Syntax, have revealed plans for a 135-mile network of cycle routes in London. That amount of cycling lanes itself would be ambitious, but what makes the plan somewhat outrageous is the intention to construct the lanes above existing urban railway lines.

The progressive SkyCycle network would offer cyclists a dedicated commuter route above the trains and the developers believe that the SkyCycle will provide more than 220km of car-free cycle space, which will incorporate over 200 entrance points for cyclists. The first four-mile stretch of the route would potentially run from east London through to Liverpool Street at a cost of £220m, while nine other routes are also proposed along the elevated network. Each route could accommodate 12,000 cyclists each hour, with the network providing easy access to the cycling corridor for 5.8 million people living within the network’s vicinity.

“Cycling is one of my great passions – particularly with a group of friends,” Foster said. "And I believe that cities where you can walk or cycle, rather than drive, are more congenial places in which to live. To improve the quality of life for all in London and to encourage a new generation of cyclists, we have to make it safe. The greatest barrier to segregating cars and cyclists are London’s streets, where space is at a premium.

"SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city. By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters."

The project’s proposers are also seeking to improve journey times and decrease congestion, as London looks to manage population growth of 12 per cent in the next decade. The idea of the network has also spurred creative thinking about the space surrounding the potential route, which could be used in a similar way to other innovative urban spaces – such as New York City’s highline project. 

Details: www.fosterandpartners.com

Cycling is one of Foster’s “great passions”
Cycling is one of Foster’s “great passions”
Foster’s vision is to utilise the space above existing urban railways
Foster’s vision is to utilise the space above existing urban railways
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