Breakthrough weekend for Bobsleigh

British Bobsleigh made a breakthrough last weekend early on the road to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Pilots on British Bobsleighs performance project the Accelerated Driver Programme (ADP) made their impressive debut on the FIBT World Cup. On a long, tough track in La Plagne, France Bruce Tasker, partnered by fellow rookie pilot Ben Simons has his brakeman produced a 14th place finish from a field of 29 sleds, beating many 2014 Olympians. They also recorded the 3rd fastest start time just 0.02(s) away from the fastest starting Latvian team. …

The philosophy of this programme, as described by Performance Director Gary Anderson is to “take the best push athletes we have and develop them as drivers, then with our world class scouting network recruit world class athletes so that Great Britain are amongst the fastest starting crews in the world” This philosophy was behind the success of GBR’s 4-man crew that narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal in 2014.

Anderson added “we know that for GBR to be competitive we have to be the fastest starting crew, we have the ability to achieve that, we know the profile of the athletes we need to recruit and that is an ongoing process”

The recruitment of athletes such as double summer Olympian sprinter Simeon Williamson shows that their model is working and with more exciting additions likely in the summer this part of the equation seems well on track.

The development of the pilots is the responsibility of the head technical coach Dominik Scherrer, a no-nonsense former head of the Swiss performance programme. Scherrer makes no secret of the difficulty in this task. “This is not” mini-golf”, its hard physically and mentally, our athletes are full-time professionals and must approach the task in hand in that way. There are no short-cut to improvements, it’s a process that takes time and needs athletes to have time on the track. When I ask an athlete to make a correction I expect a reaction from them, they are not always going to get it right, but I must see a reaction. He also makes it very clear that the physical performance of these new pilots is just as critical in the development. “the reason these athletes are on the ADP squad is because they are amongst the best push athletes in the world, they have to maintain that level of physical ability, if they don’t then there is no point them being on the programme, we need all athletes to contribute to the start of the sled”.

Former world champion bobsledder Bruno Mingeon has tipped Great Britain as the ones to beat over the next few seasons, turning world class push athletes into pilots could be a game changer, according to Mingeon. He says: “You need a strong pilot now to push; it’s a very different sport to what it was. Great Britain will be a strong team in 2 seasons time because they’ve got the pushers coming through as pilots. The level has got much higher.”

The TV commentary team on the recent World Cup put huge praise in the direction of Tasker, Simons, Hall and Williamson as they made their World Cup debuts, backing up Mingeon, stating that GBR are the ones to watch for 2018.

British Bobsleigh make no secret of the fact that their trajectory has to peak in 2018, one medal is the minimum target. When you consider the world ranking in 2010 following the games in Vancouver the rise of British Bobsleigh to be amongst the top 5 nations is testament to the current group of performance staff in place and the environment they put together for the athletes.

Its not only at the senior level are they performing, at the first FIBT Omega Youth Series in Lillehammer, the qualification route to the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, Great Britain won 4 of the 6 medals on offer. Youth Olympic Coach Lee Johnston has been set a target of beating the result from the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games where Great Britain took the silver medal and a 4th place in the women’s competition and a 7th in the men’s.

The youth squad now have two further competitions this year in the Omega Youth series in Germany and Switzerland where Great Britain will be looking for more podium success.

 

Picture – Alain DuPere – All Rights reserved

Lamin Dean and his 4man crew starting in Calgary earlier this season