Aussie loses support

How low has the sport sunk in Australia when this is all they can find to write about

Lewis almost quit in anger
By Jim Wilson
TAMSYN Lewis has broken her silence, revealing she nearly quit athletics after being dumped by the Victorian Institute of Sport.

Still loved … Honda has stood by Lewis. Pic: Cameron Tandy

Lewis says she was bitterly disappointed with the VIS’s decision not to offer her a new scholarship.

The nine-time national champion was so upset that she seriously contemplated retirement.

“I’m deeply hurt and for them to say they wanted to set me a challenge is just so insulting and unfair,” Lewis said.

“The VIS and my own federation have let me down and last week I really wondered if it was all really worth going on. I was upset and if it wasn’t for my brother and coach Justin and the support from the rest of my family, I would have quit.”

Lewis was informed last month by the VIS that it would not be renewing her scholarship, which covered some travel expenses and medical treatment.

The national 400m champion has denied reports that it will cost her $15,000 a year and said she is committed to going it alone for next year’s world championships and the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.

“It was nowhere near that amount of money and I have loyal sponsors like Honda who have stuck with me,” Lewis said.

“The people that matter have been amazing and it’s made me even more determined to succeed at the worlds and the Olympics.”

Lewis’s family is livid with the decision and her brother and parents have written to Victoria Sports Minister Justin Madden wanting clarification on the decision.

“We simply want to know the real reasons why she’s been omitted, considering she’s the reigning national 400m champion and won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games,” Justin Lewis said.

“It is extremely frustrating and so typical of athletics to eat one of their own. She has done so much for the VIS and the sport and for this to happen is a slap in the face.”

He also says there are at least six other VIS athletes who’ve been offered scholarships but haven’t met the necessary criteria.

There are also claims of a conflict of interest involving the coach of another scholarship holder who sits on the VIS selection panel.

“That athlete has been offered a new deal but how can their coach sit on the panel that decides who gets scholarships,” Justin Lewis said.

Lewis is also upset the VIS questioned her performances in the Commonwealth Games 800m, when all of her energies since the Athens Olympics have been put into the 400m to improve her speed.

“The VIS were aware and, we thought, supported our move to concentrate on the four and she’s delivered, winning the past two national titles and a relay gold medal,” Justin Lewis said.

“The 400m has helped Tamsyn who now wants to run for her country and perform to the best of her ability in the 800m. The reasons for her losing the scholarship are flawed.”

It is believed the track star is reviewing her role with Athletics Australia.