By Shane Stokes
Paralympic Cycling Ireland manager Denis Toomey has appealed to Irish businesses and other donors to get involved in backing the team prior to the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.
Speaking at a media briefing held in Dublin last week, Toomey said that the squad would otherwise fall far short of the funding required for their 2007 qualification and training campaign.
"Our minimum costs for 2007 will be at least €83,000," he said. "This is just to cover the race entry, equipment, travel and accommodation. With track wheels costing in the region of €4,000 per set and a top class tandem costing up to €5,000, much more is required to give the squad their best support."
Last year the Irish squad received just €15,000 in Irish Sports Council funding. Paralympic Cycling Ireland is hoping that this will double this year but even so, they will still be at least €53,000 short.
Toomey pointed out that far greater funding was available to other countries. "It's hard for us not to contrast our situation with that of Britain, whose squad receives £1 million sterling per annum and have two indoor velodromes at their disposal," he said.
The Irish squad fared well at last year's world championships, taking four top ten placings and setting a total of six new Irish records. Paralympics Ireland had just one place at the last Paralympics but the good 2006 worlds' showing has greatly increased confidence that more riders can qualify this time round.
Strong performances at the Paralympic world championships in Bordeaux this August are crucial to these hopes. In order to maximise chances, Toomey is hoping to send the largest ever Irish squad, including male and female visually impaired cyclists riding tandem bikes with a sighted pilot, at least one cerebral palsy cyclist and at least one locomotor disorder (limb amputee) cyclist.