Skyrocketing costs and a budget shortfall for Aussie athletes mean that aspiring Olympians and Paralympians may miss out on their chance to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games and beyond.
The Australian Olympic Committee has warned that without an urgent $18.3million injection of cash, athletes were going to miss out on their shot at Olympic glory.
The economic crunch being experienced by Aussies post-Covid has extended to struggling athletes, with flights and other costs soaring.
A submission was sent from the AOC to the Federal Government outlining the budget shortfall to qualify and prepare athletes for the Paris and Los Angeles Olympic Games in 2028.
However the submission for the urgent $18.3million injection was denied by the Federal Government.
In the submission, AOC chief executive Matt Carroll warned that if the funding was not addressed, it would have major impacts on the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.
'If this investment gap is not addressed, the inevitable result is that the Australian Olympic and Paralympic Teams will be under-prepared and under-resourced to achieve the success that all Australians expect. The Brisbane 2032 Games will certainly fail if the investment shortfall is not remedied
Carroll told News Corp that its 44 member sports were already looking to cut costs which would result in less athletes being given a chance to qualify.
'We've now got to the point, with the Paris Games taking place next year, where sports are really doing it tough,' Carroll said.
'They're actually now having to look at reducing squad sizes, reducing the number of athletes they send to the qualifications, therefore reducing the opportunity for many young Australians to get their dream of the Paris Games.'
Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells justified the decision to deny the funding by pointing to existing expenditure on Australian sport.
'The Albanese Government continues to invest in sport at all levels,' she said.
'In this financial year, the Labor Government is providing more than $127million to Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports for high performance and pathway support.
'The Government has also committed billions as part of the green and gold decade through to Brisbane 2032, including more than $40million for the FIFA Women's World Cup starting in July this year.
'We continue to consider appropriate investments in sports and athletes to help them perform at their best.'
It comes after Carroll previously warned that Australia would continue to fall down the medal leaderboard at upcoming Olympics unless there was $200million in additional funding every year leading up to the Brisbane games.
'Unless this situation is rectified, Australia will be staring failure in the face at the 2026 Commonwealth Games and the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games because our home team will have been undermined by inaction,' Carroll said at the National Press Club in March.
'Based on the federal government's forward estimates, there is a $2 billion shortfall in direct investment in Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports in the 10 years leading to Brisbane 2032. 'So, what governments in Australia want sport to achieve for the community is not going to happen.'
Olympic swimming icon Kieren Perkins, who currently leads the government-supported Australian Sports Commission, recognised that sports are confronting significant financial challenges and emphasised the need to for improved solutions.
'We know that many sports are strained with the increased costs of touring and running high performance programs,' he said.
'The rising cost of living is an issue affecting so many Australians and the impacts are being seen across every sector.
'We're empathetic to the issues sports are facing and are working closely with the Government to support our athletes to deal with these challenges.'
Carroll said the AOC would continue to work with the Federal Government to find a solution for the funding shortfall.
'We're working with the Minister of Sport's office and obviously the Sports Commission but it can't wait,' he said.
'It can't be kicked into next year. Next year's budget is too late. Paris is July next year.
'But it's not just about numbers and qualifications because there's a human story behind all of this. These athletes have been working very hard to qualify and they will qualify as long as they can get to the events.'