Young Olympic hopeful is denied access to leading venue before Euro Champs

Devon van Oostrum.
Devon van Oostrum.
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One of British basketball’s best players was told to train elsewhere by staff at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield after returning to the city before a major European competition.

Great Britain international Devon Van Oostrum, aged 18, who came through the junior ranks of the Sharks before signing a professional contract with Spanish Premier League team Caja Laboral, was hoping to use the court facilities at the EISS in preparation for this month’s under 20 European Championships in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

As a potential member of the Olympic men’s basketball team next year in London, Van Oostrum is part of a ‘Gold Card’ scheme run by the British Olympic Association (BOA). The card entitles the holder to BOA negotiated access to a nominated local sports centre or gym. Van Oostrum asked to use the EISS for his daily two hour programme of shooting and fitness work before joining up with the British team.

However, the EISS said they were unable to accommodate him. And, despite being part of the Sheffield International Venues group of 14 sports facilities, didn’t offer an alternative. Duco Van Oostrum, Devon’s father, said: “The BOA requested, with a letter of support from the head of British Basketball performance, for Devon to have access to the EISS during his week off for shooting and fitness.

“He was prepared to train at any time to fit in with the venue but they basically said no because it was only for such a short period of time.”

Lorenzo Clark, director of operations for Sheffield International Venues, which operates the English Institute of Sport Sheffield (EISS), said: “One of our key objectives is to develop individual sporting potential. We have long-term agreements in place to support more than 20 elite athletes training for 2012, as well as providing a base for the Great Britain Volleyball, Table Tennis and Boxing squads who will be competing at the London Games.

“Across our portfolio of venues we support teams and individuals on all levels across most sports and operate development rates for clubs. The week when Devon wanted free use of EISS (June 27-July 1) the venue was extremely busy with bookings for other sports and activities.”