Kenilworth track cyclist Ciara Horne is determined not to let a lack of funding ruin her dreams of Olympic glory.
Horne has made great strides in the past year, breaking the Irish national record for ten miles and placing sixth in the individual pursuit at the under-23 European Track Championships.
However, it is as a member of the three-strong Irish pursuit team that the 21-year-old is targeting London 2012.
Together with Jennifer O’Reilly and Caroline Ryan, Horne set a new Irish record time of 3min 30.3sec as the trio finished 15th overall in the World Cup in Manchester.
It represented a massive improvement for the fledgling team, which had only been together for a year. Unfortunately, their rapid progress was not quick enough for the authorities and a slashing of the high performance unit budget led to the Irish Sports Council and Cycling Ireland withdrawing funding for the pursuit team in May.
It has left Horne having to fund her training and travel costs on the 1,000 euros development fund she gained at the European Track Championships.
Even the £60 she earned from winning a recent omnium event in Reading went straight into her track coach’s pocket.
“It was to pay for track time,” she said. “He asked for the money as soon as I came off the podium.”
With money running out, Horne was forced to beg ferry firm Stena Line for a free return journey in order to compete at the recent Irish National Championships in Dublin where she was rewarded with three silver medals.
“My parents have been brilliant, but asking them for the money is not an option,” said Horne, who qualifies for Ireland through her mother.
“It’s so stressful. I’m a full-time sportsperson but I’m also having to work as a sports masseur. I’m trying to balance too many things.
“It’s not like the GB team which can rely on lottery funding.”
The former Stratford Grammar pupil is no stranger to adversity having switched to the triathlon and then cycling after a shoulder injury cut short a promising swimming career.
However, Horne fears her Olympic ambitions, and those of teammates Ryan and former international rower Sinead Jennings, will be decided by events away from the track.
Ireland currently sit just outside the qualification spots, with vital points up for grabs in World Cup races in Kazakhstan, Columbia, Beijing and London.
But unless Horne and her teammates can raise £10,000 each to meet the cost of attending the events, the trio will definitely miss out on London 2012.
Horne is therefore appealing to local businesses to help her in her Olympic quest.
In return, she is offering branding opportunities on her kit and equipment, with sponsors benefiting from exposure on national media such as Eurosport and the BBC.
She says the backing might even mean the difference between watching from sidelines and a podium finish.
“If we go to the Olympics, such has been our improvement in form that anything can happen.
“There’s no reason why we can’t get an Olympic medal ride-off.
“We’re aiming for 3min 27sec, which would put us right up there.”
For further information or to provide sponsorship assistance, contact Ciara on 07534 404527 or email firstname.lastname@example.org