Ex-bobsledder who competed for Team GB reveals the cuts to development money forced her into early retirement from the sport
Annabel Chaffey, 21, was ranked youth world number one and two for consecutive years and widely tipped to be picked for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
However, in September 2017 all women’s funding was cut in bobsleigh, causing Chaffey’s life to drastically change, her dreams shattered.
In an exclusive interview with Birmingham Eastside, Annabel said: “It happened at the worst of times for me, I’d made a big life decision in not going to university, I’d planned a career in sport. It’s something I’ve massively struggled with and have only just started to process it this year.”
The 21-year-old from Berkshire, was called up to train with the GB squad whilst at school in 2014 and continued to do so for more than four years until September 2017.
Chaffey worked as a waitress and a teaching assistant in Newbury whilst training with the GB squad, looking ahead to the Winter Olympic Games in 2022. She was ranked as World Number One for the 2014/2015 and World Number Two for the 2015/2016 seasons.
It happened at the worst of times for me, I’d made a big life decision in not going to university, I’d planned a career in sport.Annabel Chaffey
The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association had an overspend of £50,000, which led to their funding being cut just five months before the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Chaffey had to start all over again, looking for a new career which she didn’t find easy. She said, “It was devastating. I’d been told for three years that I had so much potential and that I could make it to a senior games. To then have it taken away like that, it was and is heart-breaking.”
Despite having their funding cut completely just five months before the games, the British women’s pair of Mica McNeill and Mica Moore managed to get to PyeongChang after crowdfunding more than £40,000.Embed from Getty Images
Not only has the loss of cash affected the chances of Great Britain achieving success in terms of medals at the Winter Olympic Games, but it’s affected the lives and futures of male and female athletes alike.
Annabel said, “It’s been difficult resetting dreams and aspirations. I’ve tried to continue my education by doing my degree at the Open University, but it’s been hard. My life’s been very different from what I imagined, understanding who I am, not as ‘Annabel the athlete’. That’s something I’ve really struggled with, like who am I now?”
Chaffey has made a successful career, working as an Account Executive at Lane4, which has a program which helps retired athletes such as herself with their transition into ‘normal life’. Many others aren’t as successful when it comes to dealing with such issues, spiralling into personal deterioration.Embed from Getty Images
The lack of development funding can also be seen when it comes to the development of the human being behind the sports star. After Chaffey’s early retirement, she was left with no support from governing body, The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association.
“There was very little support for me, initially it came from just my family and friends, they did what they could. It wasn’t until I started working at Lane4 and had access to the Athlete Transition Programme there that I got the support I needed.”
Chaffey went from being an upcoming star, looking towards representing her country at an Olympic Games, to being a forgotten star.
“It’s something that’s an issue with elite sport, as soon as you aren’t needed or retire that’s it you’re very rarely supported with your transition into ‘normal life’.
I think an acknowledgement from governing bodies that there is a life after sport would be a great start, there needs to be the finances in place to support people like me.”