Olympic bronze medalist Bruce Tasker has been named Team Leader for the British Bobsleigh programme for the Olympic Winter Games in China in February.
Tasker, who spent eight years training at the University of Bath and now coaches there twice a week, will lead the team at Beijing 2022 in six months’ time and will also head up the elite programme between now and the Games.
The 33-year-old won four-man Olympic bronze alongside John Jackson, Stu Benson and Joel Fearon in Sochi in 2014 and made more than 100 appearances for Great Britain over a seven-year sliding career.
He missed the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang after suffering a stroke a month before the Games and was forced to officially retire from the sport in October of the same year but he stepped into coaching with the Royal Navy and worked closely with a number of GB teams last season.
“We are delighted to appoint Bruce as Olympic Team Leader for Bobsleigh,” said Joanna Poulton, Chair of the British Bobsleigh Skeleton Association which is based at the University of Bath.
“He is well respected by athletes and coaches in Great Britain and across the world and he has a great knowledge of the sport.
“Bruce enjoyed a stellar career as an athlete and, although he is relatively new to coaching and management, he has already had a significant impact since his appointment was announced internally.
“He knows what it takes to succeed at the very highest level and I am sure his experience, expertise and enthusiasm will be a real benefit in the build up to the Games and in Beijing itself.”
With Bobsleigh not in receipt of any funding from UK Sport, the position of Olympic Team Leader is a voluntary one. Individual crews will continue to employ their own coaching staff and Tasker’s role will see him work closely with all of them to bring the best out of the squad as a whole.
He will oversee the elite programme and will lead on all areas of the wider team’s Olympic preparation, before spearheading the British Bobsleigh challenge in Beijing in February.
“I’m really excited to be back involved with British Bobsleigh, especially with this talented group of athletes,” said Tasker, who won World Cup and European Championship medals before and after his Olympic bronze as an athlete in four-man teams.
“The depth of ability and athleticism within the squads now is the highest standard I have ever seen and I have no doubt that we have some of the best athletes in the world. I don’t believe anything radical needs to be done – the athletes are all experienced and have been training with Beijing as the focus for three years already.
“Since funding was withdrawn, it’s been a tough few years for the sport, with the athletes having to source funding and plan their own seasons. I really hope to take some of that burden away from the teams to allow them to focus on performance at the Olympic Games in Beijing.”
While Tasker will focus on the Olympic preparation, he will have full-time support with the development arm of the programme after Mark Silva joined the BBSA on a two-year secondment from the Royal Air Force.
Silva, who has served in the Royal Air Force for 23 years and has held senior management roles for the past decade, will focus on working with Bobsleigh athletes aiming for the Milan Cortina Olympics in 2026, with an eye to bringing in new talent and developing those already in the GB system.
“I would firstly like to thank both the Royal Air Force and the BBSA for affording me this opportunity. It is an honour to be asked and I am looking forward to the task ahead,” said Silva, who began coaching and managing the RAF Bobsleigh team in 2010 and was part of the Jamaican support team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
“Creating a strong structure to develop future Olympians is key for the success of the sport in this country. That structure has to be clear and transparent, affording all athletes a solid platform to perform on.
“Having no grassroots bobsleigh in Great Britain means extra work has to be done to ensure all avenues are explored to find quality athletes. These athletes must possess the potential and desire required to represent British Bobsleigh at the highest level as we look to build on some of the incredible successes British athletes have had in both the recent and not-so-recent past.
“We have some highly talented athletes in our squads already but the task of finding more future Olympic medalists for 2026 and onwards starts right now.”