Olympic basketball star Jo Leedham has welcomed the decision to award emergency funding to GB Basketball.
After a period of turmoil following UK Sport’s withdrawal of £7m of funding following London 2012, Sport England stepped in to provide £1.18m for GB Basketball, securing the immediate future of both the men’s and women’s teams.
The decision to remove the funding, due to UK Sport’s belief that neither the men’s or women’s Team GB sides are gold medal prospects at Rio 2016, was announced in February and an appeal by British Basketball chiefs was later rejected.
Chester-born Leedham, 26, was vocal in her criticism of that decision but has welcomed the additional funds, stressing the importance of backing the sport at an elite level in Britain to enable its continued growth.
Leedham, who plays her professional basketball in France with Bourges said: “Obviously I’m delighted to hear that we are receiving some funding back. It’s massive news for the GB basketball community.
“It’s impossible to exist on an elite level with no funding. The funding will mean better preparation, I’m sure. Players will be able to receive funding whilst in training camps.
“Hopefully the best medical staff can be brought on board and the money can be put in the right places.”
Leedham has had a distinguished basketball career so far, playing in Australia and Poland before joining Bourges, who play in the women’s Euroleague, last year.
The former Ellesmere Port Panthers junior played her college basketball in America at Franklin Pierce University, New Hampshire, where she became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division II women’s basketball history with 3,050 career points.
Leedham, who captained Team GB at London 2012, has made no secret of her ambition to make it in the American WNBA in the future but is focusing on securing some success in France first.
“We are off to a good start over here in France,” she said.
“Our goals are to win the LFB league and championship, to claim the title back, and also the cup of France.
“And in the Euroleague we will be fighting for a quarter-final spot out of the group stages and be hoping to go to the final four.”