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BRITISH WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL EMBARK ON CYCLING ODYSSEY TO SAVE THEIR 2012 DREAM.
FUND-RAISING CYCLE CAMPAIGN IS LAUNCHED IN SHEFFIELD ON FRIDAY 23RD JULY 2010, AS 18 PLAYERS PREPARE TO RIDE 270 MILES FROM SHEFFIELD TO LONDON TO KEEP THEIR OLYMPIC PROGRAMME ON TRACK.
Following the launch, the GB women’s volleyball team set off from Sheffield at 9am on Saturday 24th July, 2010, on the first leg of their four-day mission to cycle to London, raising awareness of financial shortages which threaten their continued progress as an aspiring Olympic team. They plan to reach the capital on Tuesday 27th July, 2010 - exactly two years to the London Olympics’ Opening Ceremony. Proficient athletes on the volleyball court, many of them haven’t been on bike since they were 12-years-old but the action is deemed necessary to save their dream of competing at their best in London 2012.
Financial constraints have recently dictated that their Sheffield-based programme be suspended for the next eight months and the cycle ride was their idea to generate the additional funds necessary to establish them as an Olympic squad with genuine potential and the capacity to make an impact on the Games. The sport as a whole (indoor, beach and sitting) qualified for funding of £4.3 million over four years from UK Sport – set at that level because of their previous lack of Olympic experience - but the GB women’s squad are now determined to make up any shortfall themselves.
The planned route will take them through Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicester, Stratford, Oxford, Reading, Hampton Court, Richmond Park, Westminster, Trafalgar Square and finishing at Earls Court, the Olympic Volleyball venue, on Tuesday evening, 27th July.
Along the way, they will take part in demonstration volleyball events, offer the public rides on a giant 7-seater-bike, provide an inflatable volleyball court, meet the local people and spread the word of their intention to raise a necessary total of £250,000 to maintain their programme over the winter 2010-2011.
The squad have received strong support from the Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, and five times Olympic gold medalist, Sir Steve Redgrave, who said: "As someone who competed at five Olympics, and almost all of them with an overdraft, I understand what it's like to strive for a goal on very little money. My ambition was to win an Olympic gold medal and I was stubborn enough to keep going. The GB women's volleyball team have a similar ambition - to compete in London 2012 as the very best athletes they can be. That is all you can ask of yourself. I applaud their dedication and taking responsibility for themselves in these difficult financial times. I wish them well and hope they do our country proud in London.”
Dame Kelly Holmes has also sent a message of support. “I know only too well how difficult it can be to ensure that everything is right for you to produce that perfect performance on the biggest stage of all, the Olympic Games. Elite sports men and women face many challenges on their way to the top, and unfortunately in these current times, funding and financial backing is an increasingly common issue. I wish the GB Women’s Volleyball every success with their efforts, and sincerely hope that the Cycle 250 brings the rewards it deserves. Your team spirit is there for all to see and I look forward to seeing you on the Olympic stage in 2012.”
Audrey Cooper, the GB women's volleyball head coach said:
"It's no surprise to me the girls are doing this, knowing their determination and energy. They are not willing to turn up at London 2012 under-prepared. They want to be as good as they can be at our home Olympics to make the country proud. They've conducted themselves so admirably and professionally this season. They've played some absolutely tremendous volleyball against really tough opposition. We need that competition. We need to go on playing quality matches so we can do our best in 2012.
"When we realised the required funding wasn't there, we said: 'What can we do as a group of athletes and staff to get off our backsides and help ourselves?' We came up with the bike ride and we are prepared to do absolutely anything to keep our 2012 dreams alive. We started from nothing in 2007 and we've improved out of sight since then. We are simply not prepared to give up now.”
Unable to stay together as a team over the winter, the players are searching for professional contracts abroad, mainly in Eastern Europe. So far two of 18 players have found berths with foreign teams.
During the cycle ride, the squad and staff will be staying en route in donated accommodation from army barracks (tbc) to a conference hotel. They will, among other events, play beach volleyball on the Market Square in Nottingham, meet the Mayor of Leicester, cycle round the track where Sir Roger Bannister famously broke the four-minute-mile in Oxford and join the Countdown-to-London celebrations in the capital.
John Steele, CEO of UK Sport said:
"Good luck to the team on your cycle ride to London. Alongside the substantial money we have already invested in Volleyball, it is great to see such commitment, which is symptomatic of the passion, spirit and dedication we're seeing from athletes across all sports in the run-up to London 2012."
Among those donating goods and services to the GB women’s cause are: De Vere Wokefield ParkHotel, Wiggle for cycle clothing, Get Cycling for the bicycles, Sheffield City Council, Mellors Group for the beach volleyball court, Nottingham City Council, Leicester City Council, Village Hotel, Coventry, Sports Department at Oxford University, Reading Borough Council, Panasonic for video camera, City of Westminster Council and Vertex.
Details of route: Day 1, Saturday July 24, Depart Sheffield 9am. Arrive Nottingham Market Square 4pm (Beach volleyball session.
Day 2, Sunday July 25, Depart Nottingham 8am. Arrive Loughborough 9.30am. Depart Loughborough 10.30am. Arrive Leicester Town Hall Square 1pm Arrive Stratford-on-Avon 7pm.
Day 3, Monday July 26, Depart Stratford 9am. Arrive Oxford 12.30pm. Depart Oxford 2pm. Arrive Reading 4.30pm.
Day 4, Tuesday July 27. Depart Reading 9am. Arrive Hampton Court 12 noon. Arrive Richmond Park 1.30pm. Arrive Trafalgar Square 4.15pm Arrive Earls Court, 5pm.
(All times approximate and subject to alteration.)