Olympic dream over for dale bobsleigh ace
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
DALE bobsleigh racer Alan Toward's dream to compete in the Beijing winter Olympics is over.
Lengthy treatment for a devastating foot injury he suffered during a competition just prior to Christmas 2019 coupled with a lack of funding has put paid to his efforts to be part of the GB four-man team led by driver Brad Hall.
However, the 28-year-old, from Middleton-in-Teesdale, has not ruled out a tilt at the 2026 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Italy.
Mr Toward made his name as a discus thrower and switched to bobsleigh after a successful trial in Bath, home to the GB team, in 2018.
Despite an encouraging first season as part of Brad Hall’s four-man team, UK Sport cut all funding for the bobsleigh teams in the run-up to the Beijing games.
Despite this setback, Mr Toward was once again back in action for the start of the 2019-20 sliding season.
However, just before Christmas 2019, he suffered three broken metatarsals, the worst of which was a Lisfranc fracture – where the tendon pulls the bone out of place – simply slipping on the ice while helping to push the sled at the start of a race in Konigsee, Germany.
An operation followed in January 2020 after which he was in a cast for six weeks before facing a second operation and months of further treatment and recuperation.
The good news is Mr Toward is almost back to full fitness, but his recovery has not come in time for him to try to win back his spot in the sled for Beijing.
Mr Toward said: “My fitness is coming back. I’m 99 per cent there but unfortunately I wasn’t able to come back in time for the selection of Brad’s team, as my operation was delayed due to Covid.
“I’m still in the programme but will not be able to make an attempt for 2022.
“There is an opportunity for me to return after the games for the next cycle and I’m still relatively young for a push athlete.”
After suffering his injury, Mr Toward secured a job as head of athletics and strength and conditioning at Sedbergh school.
He said that is where his future lies for the moment until the situation regarding the GB bobsleigh set-up post-Beijing becomes clearer.
“They [the school] have put me through my teaching qualification while being there.
“I didn’t manage to secure any sponsors/funding to continue [bobsleigh] so for now I’ll be coaching, teaching and training at Sedbergh.”
Meanwhile, Bruce Tasker, who won an Olympic four-man bronze medal alongside Barnard Castle’s John Jackson, Stu Benson and Joel Fearon in the 2014 Sochi games has been named team leader for the British Bobsleigh programme in the run-up to Beijing.
Due to the lack of funding, his position is a voluntary one and individual bobsleigh crews will continue to employ their own coaching staff.
Mr Tasker’s role will see him work closely with all of them, overseeing the elite programme and leading on all areas of the wider team’s Olympic preparation, before spearheading the British bobsleigh challenge in the February games.