Melissa Breen (left) with Susan Alberti. Photo: Ken Irwin
Australia’s fastest ever woman, Melissa Breen, has been given just a third of the funding she was expected to get – $4000 – prompting wealthy businesswoman Susan Alberti to again step in and do what her sport did not.
Breen, who was not funded by her sport when she broke the national record this year, was expected to be given $12,000 in funding when grants were reviewed this week.
Instead, despite running times fast enough to qualify for even that modest level of funding, Athletics Australia has given her just a fraction of that amount for six months only.
Breen has been told that two fast times are not enough and that unless she runs consistently close to the national record and does well at a championship – the final if not a medal at this year’s Commonwealth Games – even that amount will dry up.
Disgusted at AA’s level of support for the national record holder philanthropist Alberti again stepped forward and personally funded Breen with a cheque for $5000.
It is the second generous donation Alberti has made in months. When Breen won the record and it emerged she was not being funded by her sport and that the expected amount of funding was only $12,000 but even that amount would only be granted until after a funding review in April Alberti immediately stepped in with a cheque for $12,000.
“I am disgusted, what more does this girl need to do? She is the national record holder, she has run two times faster than what they had asked her to for funding and they still won’t support her,” Alberti said.
“I cannot for the life of me work out why they will not fund her. She is young, fast, dedicated and professional. She is what sport needs and loves and her own sport won’t fund her, I just find it baffling.
“I am not doing this because of them I am doing it because of her. She has great potential and I want to help her realise it.”
Athletics Australia’s high-performance director Simon Nathan defended the funding saying Breen had not yet performed well at a major championship. The 23-year-old has also not yet made the final of a world championships, Olympics or Commonwealth games.
“Her time was great. It was a great achievement but for whatever reasons she did not run at that level for the rest of the season,” Nathan said.
“It is not only about the time. It’s about making top eight at championships and performing on the day.”
On Wednesday Athletics officials met and decided Breen would only get $4000 in funding as a Commonwealth category athlete. She had run two times faster than the minimum level required for the International athlete level category of funding of $12,000 but was rejected for that funding.
International athlete funding requires a belief the athlete could make a championship final in the next two years.
She was also rejected for funding in the developing athlete category of $7000 which again despite running times faster than the category requires they did not believe the 23-year-old was capable of making a final of a major championship in the next four years.
Breen will receive medical support and access to institutes of sport in addition to the $4000.
Breen was in tears at Alberti’s generosity and disappointed with AA’s lack of faith in her potential.
“Again I am overwhelmed by Susan’s support, I can’ describe what it means for me to have her financial support but also her belief in me,” Breen said.
“While it as nice of AA to recognise me and to be added to the funding list it is still disappointing the funding does not reflect my performances this domestic season and its more disappointing not to be deemed worth investing in for the next few years and Rio in particular.”