GB slider’s plea for support after funding is withdrawn
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
HELP us keep our Olympic dream alive.
That’s the plea from dale bobsleigh ace Alan Toward after he and fellow members of the British team launched an appeal for support to get them to the next Winter Olympics in Beijing, in 2022.
UK Sport cut all funding for the British bobsleigh men’s and women’s teams after last winter’s competitions.
Despite recording some of the best GB performances in decades, none achieved a podium finish – the benchmark for funding through to the next Olympics set by UK Sport.
As a result, the governing body, the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BBSA), along with the athletes themselves, must find cash from other sources.
Having made the four-man bobsleigh team during his first season in the sport, 27-year-old Alan, from Middleton-in-Teesdale, has set about trying to help raise the cash needed to continue, along with his pilot Brad Hall and fellow brakeman Nick Gleeson.
Alan said they needed to raise about £10,000 individually to cover their own costs, plus another £70,000 to compete on the bobsleigh circuit next season.
Hall and Gleeson finished fourth in the two-man bobsleigh World Championships in Whistler, Canada – the best result by a GB pair for 50 years – while the two GB four-man crews came in 13th and 15th.
Although Alan was left out of the final four for the World Championships, in Whistler, he had competed in the North American Cup and World Cup series after impressing at summer trials last year.
“After the World Championships, we had a bit of a break and then went through a review with UK Sport,” said Alan.
“The target we had was the top three. We came fourth in the two-man and 13th in the four-man and as a result, anyone who still wants to be involved has to self-fund.
“It’s quite brutal. I don’t think I have ever heard of a sport coming fourth and then losing all its funding.”
He remains under contract until the end of July and is continuing to train in Bath, headquarters of the BBSA.
After that, he is planning to move back up to Middleton-in-Teesdale while continuing efforts to attract sponsors.
“It is not the cheapest of sports,” he said.
“I am trying to raise about £10,000 to cover my costs and the team needs £70,000.”
He said the team still had the support of the governing body – however, its funding has also been cut.
“Everyone has gone back to nothing,” he added.
“If I can find sponsors, I don’t think raising £10,000 is unrealistic.
“That would cover my training costs for the year.
“But we also need team funding as well. We have got the sleds and we would like to improve them, but it’s just about getting us on the World Cup circuit.”
He said: “We did not do bad at all last season really, we just did not quite click as the four-man crew.
“We are all just trying to maintain our fitness levels as well as possible – our coaches have lost their jobs.”
Alan and his fellow athletes are drawing up a programme of benefits to offer sponsors, including branding on the sled and training and race kit plus the chance to have a go down a bobsleigh track.
Lee Johnston, British Bobsleigh’s performance director and head coach, said: “I have seen some real success stories in my 25 years in bobsleigh and I believe the current crop of athletes and coaches have the ability to add to those.
“We are on an upward trend and we have achieved some hugely impressive results over the last two seasons.
“I am convinced that both our male and female athletes are true medal contenders for Beijing 2022.”
Joanna Poulton, chairwoman designate of the BBSA, added: “We will be doing everything we can to ensure the team can get to China and we would love to hear from companies and individuals who share that desire and belief in the team.
“British Bobsleigh has a long history of participation and success at elite level and we will focus all our efforts on finding sponsors and donations to ensure we have teams on the ice representing GB next winter and through to the Beijing Olympics.”
l Anyone interested in supporting Alan can email him at alan.toward@outlook .com. For more details about supporting the GB bobsleigh team, call 01225 384343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.