Why are they fast becoming one of the top teams in the world? We talk with Joel Fearon and Bruce Tasker about their training and careers in Bobsleigh
If Chris Woolley is the man putting the programme together for GB Bobsleigh, then Joel Fearon and Bruce Tasker are two of the vital components of GBR 1 that make it go fast. Twelve months ago, GBR had a history in Bobsleigh but were not considered part of the elite, the other teams did not come out to watch their starts, they were almost considered also rans. After the 2011 â€“ 2012 season ended in Lake Placid and the 2012 â€“ 2013 started in Lake Placid, this gave the team a direct comparison as to how the off season had gone. Both Tasker and Fearon are part of the reason that the elite of World Bobsleigh now take the team seriously.
While the team is constantly looking to look for as many gains within the team as they can, according to Woolley, â€œrather than try and change individual factors in the team, we are now trying to train the team to work better together.â€ Woolley adds: â€œI expect each of them to individually improve and the knock on effect of that is at a team level and that is what we have got to find.â€
With such high levels of fitness required, is it a finite level in staying fit and healthy rather than getting injured? â€œAlways, the athletes have to be protected as well as enhanced,â€ explains Woolley. Fearon then comments: â€œthe reason why the training in the summer is so important is that it makes us able to sustain it during the winter. If we do all the loading right during the summer, in the winter it will give us the ability to almost be injury free.â€
This does not mean that the team shy away from the gym during the winter. A change in the way that they manipulate the week; has seen the team set up their mobile gym while on the road during the winter. Tasker has been known to set up the bike in the open air, much to the enjoyment of some of the females that watch the team! The team has a support vehicle that was donated by one of the sponsors that carries all the kit around. This carries around lifting platforms, bars, weights, a bike and they hope to expand it a little more over the summer. The combination of a number of sponsors has made this all possible.
â€œIt is a big advantage for us as athletes to have our equipment there when we need it,â€ explains Fearon. â€œWe work together during the winter, even though we train slightly different during the summer. I am more slight and more sprint based where Bruce is more of a big strong guy. During the winter we all work together as we are working towards the same goal.â€ Tasker adds: â€œIt is good to have everyone around to encourage each other along. It is good to motivate each other and get the best out of ourselves.â€
With the different types of brakemen that there are, Fearon is slight, Tasker and Benson, the powerhouses of the team. Woolley: â€œWhat we have on the sled right now is Brice and Stu on the side handles; both are similar in height, weight and stride frequency and the length, they seem to compliment each other really well. Joel on the back is a very high frequency turn over and the three of them plus Jacko, on the front, who probably has the greatest static strength on the handles. Everyoneâ€™s ability compliments someone elseâ€™s ability on the sled,â€ Woolley believes firmly.
The set up of who goes where is â€œone of those little things that is enormous,â€ explains Woolley. Woolley has spent a long time looking for the fastest crew and is adamant that the fastest crew on paper might not be the fastest crew over the ice at the start: This has a lot to do with the power of the athletes and it complimenting each other.
Does Woolley observe the other crews in looking for things that might improve GBR? He used to he admits but has since realized that other crews do things their way as it suits the athletes they have in their crew. With this in mind and that all the crews from the best teams in the world, â€œthey are all very different,â€ Woolley explains, â€œyou cannot say, this crew load like this, maybe we should do it like that. They do things like that to compliment their own style,â€ Woolley explains.
When asked who the best starters are in the world, Fearon was quick to chirp in: â€œWe are definitely. The amount we have grown in the past eight months is more than any.â€ Woolley adds to this: â€œAs a unit of three, you take the driver out and refer to it as the crew, I would suggest that the three guys from Great Britain are the best crew in the world.â€ Yet Woolley declares that the Latvians are the fastest starters. The Latvians have, according to Woolley, four guys that push the sled instead of three and their driver used to be their best brakeman before converting to driving.
Fearon again comes back: â€œIf you ask me that question in eight months, I will have a solid answer for you.â€ Both Woolley and Tasker agree quickly with Fearon. There is no doubt that the team knows that there is more to come from this team. Gary Anderson, the teamâ€™s Performance Director adds: â€œWhat I have seen from a Performance Directorâ€™s perspective, we started off with a crew and what we have now is a team that work with each other and the staff and that they genuinely have a belief that they are going to win a medal. We had hope eighteen months ago and now we have belief.â€
You go from hope to belief, what is the next stage: â€œRealization,â€ declares Woolley. Tasker adds, â€œHolding something in front of you.â€ Anderson adds: â€œWe will go to Sochi doing the best we can, we cannot control what the Latvians, Russians, Germans, Americans will do, we cannot control that. If we do the best we can, we can walk away from Sochi, whatever the outcome is, knowing that we did the best we could.â€
Fearon, quiet and thoughtful but hugely determined adds: â€œIf we do the best we can, we can win a medal.â€ The conversation comes back to the improved performances that resulted from the hard work put in over last summer. The team started to ask each other, could they repeat the performances each week during the World Cup? Now that the World Cup is over, they know that they did it every week. â€œIf we pushed less than second in the world, we were never happy,â€ Fearon admits, â€œwe used to be in and out, in and out and now we are in and everyone is out to beat us (at the starts). If we do the best we can, we will win a medal.â€
These are big words eleven months out from the first Olympics since the London factor. Yet sitting talking to these components of GBR 1, you get the feel that this is a hugely professional outfit and while the nation may just have two practice start facilities in the country, if has a significant set up that is the envy of other nations. Success breeds success and this is why the guys want to be part of the team.