Ankrom hits back in O'Rourke grant row
ATHLETICS Ireland's (AAI) high-performance manager Kevin Ankrom has denied that giving former World indoor champion and two-time European silver medallist Derval O'Rourke just a €12,000 carding grant reflects a lack of faith in her ability to win another medal this summer.
AAI have come under some fire for only giving O'Rourke and Ciaran O'Lionaird – who won European indoor bronze last year – individual grants of just €12,000 for 2014.
Both missed the 2013 outdoor season through injury and O'Rourke has said her reduced grant "tells me there is little faith in me to come back and win another championship medal from the powers-that-be in my sport."
But Ankrom has stressed that AAI's investment in O'Rourke and other elites does not just involve the carding grants. "Whether it's 12, 20 or 40k (the three levels of carding), it's not just the cash in hand that athletes get," he said. "We are also helping athletes with a range of supports like physio, travel, competition and training camps."
He stressed that €12,000 was the agreed grant for a European indoor medal and said: "It's not just the medal anymore. We're looking at a medal and multiple performances, that is key now. Derval has been a brilliant championship performer and in the discussions I had with her, I told her: 'I do support you, we want to help you,'" he said. "But it's important to understand that 12k is not just 12k."
Ankrom cited AAI's payment of O'Rourke and O'Lionaird's surgeries last year as part of that additional support, saying they cost €8,000. "There is a strong belief from our side that we support those (two) athletes and believe in them, absolutely."
O'Rourke has also questioned the fact that 20pc of AAI'S high-performance budget goes on salaries and questioned why a full breakdown of the budget is not usually given out.
But earlier this week, AAI released a breakdown of their 2014 high-performance funding of €879,000 as follows: €348,000 in cash (€168,000 for 11 carded athletes and €180,000 for 76 development athletes); €258,000 for support services (largely medical/physio); €213,000 for international travel and accommodation; and over €60,000 for altitude and warm-weather training camps.
Ankrom said he has to account for all high-performance spending to the AAI board and Sports Council, but that the release of a detailed high-performance budget is the remit of AAI's chief executive and board.
"Regardless of what any staff salaries are, that is not taking away from any athletes," he said. "It's the exact opposite, because if certain positions aren't in place to drive the programme, there will be less funds available from the Sports Council."
High performance is only one element of the staff salaries that Athletics Ireland pays out annually, which cost over €1m last year.
Ankrom will be accompanied by Chris Jones (national endurance coach), Teresa McDaid (personal coach to Mark English) and a team physio (Paul Carragher) at the upcoming World Indoors in Poland.
Only five athletes are competing, but Ankrom said four officials for such a small team is not excessive. "In a team of that size, that is the bare minimum," Ankrom said.
"I'd like to take more athletes' coaches if they were available but we threw it out to them and they weren't available. We are very conscious of taking the appropriate ratio of athletes to coaches and basically it's me and a physio running the team with two coaches."