British ski halfpipe champion James Machon is hoping that his Olympic Solidarity Scholarship will help propel him in the rankings as the sport makes its Olympic debut at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Machon started freestyle skiing at the Sheffield Ski Village in the UK, an artificial indoor halfpipe. The subsequent road to competing on real snow and an Olympic qualification was not entirely setback-free however. A knee-injury meant that the athlete had to undergo two operations as well as regular physio therapy to get back into training and back on skis. “The IOC believed in me that I could get to the Olympics and that is really encouraging when you are training,” he said.
Olympic Solidarity is the body that ensures that athletes with talent have an equal chance of reaching the Games and succeeding in the Olympic arena. It is responsible for administering and managing the National Olympic Committees’ (NOCs’) share of the revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games. Working in particular with disadvantaged NOCs and their Continental Associations, Olympic Solidarity uses this money to develop a range of assistance programmes. The current quadrennial plan, which runs from 2013 to 2016, has a development and assistance budget of USD 438 million – an increase of nearly 40% on the 2009-2012 budget. This is the second time that Winter Games athletes have received Individual Olympic Scholarships following the successful debut of the programme in the build-up to Vancouver in 2010, when 325 athletes (193 men and 132 women) from 60 NOCs benefited from Solidarity funding. Of these, 227 athletes qualified for the Games, winning 13 medals between them.