OLYMPIC hopefuls could miss out on vital training due to the dangerous condition of their track.

But Billingham Marsh House Harriers have been turned away at every avenue for funding and grants.

Now, they have taken it upon themselves to raise £15,000.

Their training track, at Billingham Synthonia Football Club, is in dire need of repair, with no markings and weeds overgrowing the once-red-gravelled surface.

Chairman Michael Oliver is hoping local generosity will keep youngsters training at Stockton's only running track.

He said: "The track is in a really bad condition, to the point where it is becoming dangerous to use.

"We don't want to be turning kids away who could be the next gold medallists because of the state of our facilities.

"It is a really embarrassing situation, because this is the only track in this area, with the nearest in Middlesbrough, but that's the next district."

Mr Oliver said the self-funding club, which has been in operation since 1986, has been turned down many times for grants and given various reasons for being refused.

"We've been told its because we're not in an area of social deprivation, and also because we have a low ethnic population.

"I think that's ridiculous.

"To say there's no money to modernise the only track in the borough is shocking, when millions of pounds are being spent on state-of-the-art schools that have everything.

"This is real grassroots sport and we're really disappointed no one has offered to help save it."

The club and its members, including more than 60 youngsters aged eight to 16, will be working hard to reach their £15,000 target in the next 16 months, with social evenings and raffles.

That figure will pay for the track to be dug up and re-laid with new foundations and drainage system.

Club secretary Stuart Blakey said: "London staging the 2012 Olympics is a tremendous honour for this country. But at the moment, we are in the unfortunate position of having youngsters' dreams hindered by a track that is unfit for competition."

Anyone who can help is asked to ccontact Mr Oliver, on 07944 044364, or Mr Blakey, on (01642) 561926.