Lincolnshire’s Jade Etherington is one of Great Britain’s most decorated Paralympians, but after returning home from the Winter Paralympics in Sochi wearing four medals, the prospect of continuing her sporting career is being overshadowed by debt.
Jade Etherington made history when she achieved her fourth medal at the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi.
The visually-impaired ski racer, who has been supported by the Lincolnshire Sport charity for the last two years, spoke to The Lincolnite about how lack of funding has put her future representing Great Britain into question.
Jade met with her Lincoln sponsors Your Print Partner on June 30, along with representatives from Lincolnshire Sport, in order to thank them for their continued support and emphasise the importance of funding from local businesses.
She said: “Sponsor money from businesses is so vital. The money goes towards things like team uniforms and you wouldn’t believe what a difference that makes, you feel you belong somewhere and can be a trigger for that sporting mode and responsibility.
“Having a programme set up locally makes things a lot easier and it keeps children in sport longer.”
Jade has been on Lincolnshire Sport’s Lincolnshire Elite Athlete Programme (LEAP) for around two years. The programme now supports 35 athletes.
Jade added: “It was really important for me to have support from home. It wasn’t just about the money, there were lots of workshops on offer, we got media training and I could meet other athletes and learn from their experiences.
“There were also workshops for parents, because me and my parents had a lot of debate about education vs sport. It made me more aware that my decisions were affecting everybody.
Your Print Partner Managing Director, Stuart Maclaren, said: “As a sponsor we have been very keen on social interaction and have been tweeting about all the events.
“It’s a very good cause for us to support young people in Lincolnshire and it’s great to see them do so well. We help in any way that we can with promotions and to raise the athlete’s profiles.
“Sponsoring young talents is definitely something we will be continuing and wherever we can support them we will support them. We’ve got 1,500 clients of major businesses and we can go out there and actively push the sport and say ‘look what we do, and we are proud of it!”
LEAP, which relies on sponsors to provide funding and support for talented athletes, is appealing for potential new sponsors to come forward, and are also asking anyone wishing to book Jade for a special appearance to contact them.
To book Jade Etherington, you can contact [email protected].
Lincolnshire Sport Commercial Manager, Nina Craggs, added: “Lincolnshire County Council provide £9,000 for the Lincolnshire Elite Athlete (LEAP) programme, but we have to match that and we rely heavily on sponsors each year.
“It costs £50 per month, so £600 per year, for a business to sponsor an athlete on LEAP – that certainly doesn’t include the cost of funding a place in the olympics however.”
Lack of funding
Jade trained without funding for 6 years before earning her place on LEAP. She is due to complete her teacher training in a few months time and has a tough decision to make about the future.
“I would love to carry on competing and if I did the aim would be the next games in four years time,” she said.
“The medals are great but it hasn’t really done much for me. It hasn’t really affected my life other than the fact that I have got loads of debt and now everybody knows.
“It’s certainly not like I’m set up or I’ve got a job. It’s kind of heartbreaking, I would love to be a brand ambassador or something.
“Since returning to the UK I’ve had the absolute pleasure of being honoured with awards and parades. I don’t regret anything and I am so grateful.
“There are a few things I would have to consider. It’s not just my life, it’s my guide Caroline’s life too and of course all my family’s, who have been so supportive. I just don’t know whether the support would be there at that time and whether it would be worth it.
“It’s £9,000 for every year you want to complete and you have to think about your training. Of course I can’t train in this country so it’s a lot of travelling and I have to pay for my guide too.
“No other athlete from any other county won a medal in every race and I’d love to end on a high. But then there is that gold missing.”