Greg Rutherford’s dream of becoming the first British athlete to win a medal at a summer and winter Olympics has ended after he and his four-man team missed out on selection for GB’s bobsleigh squad having failed to hit the qualifying standard for the Winter Games in Beijing.
The London 2012 Olympic champion came out of retirement last year in an attempt to qualify in driver Lamin Deen’s sled, and then battled back from injury to make his bobsleigh debut this month. However Deen and co failed to achieve the qualifying standard of three top-12 World Cup finishes this season, which ended Rutherford’s chances of making the flight to Beijing.
Brad Hall and Mica McNeill will pilot British crews in the two-man, four-man and women’s bobsleigh, with both having also represented Team GB at the last Games in Pyeongchang four years ago.
Hall and his crew of Taylor Lawrence, Nick Gleeson and Greg Cackett believe they are genuine medal contenders, having won six medals on the World Cup circuit as well as another at the Olympic test event in China in October.
That achievement is particularly impressive given they are not funded by UK Sport due to historical problems in the sport and a poor performance in Pyeongchang.
Speaking after the squad was announced, Cackett admitted his teammates had been frustrated by UK Sport’s claim they had given them £120,000 to help them qualify, when the money had only come in after they started doing well.
“I was very irate about that, that was frustrating because whether they were misquoted or it was deliberately misleading, we felt that it was an unnecessary 11th-hour attempt to say ‘we’ve given this’, whereas actually the money came way after we could have done anything with it,” said Cackett. “So for us it was: ‘Please congratulate us for what we’ve done on our own, and look forward to working with us again.’ That was what the frustration was.
“We don’t have to give the money back but we may be in a position where we do because the money can’t be spent,” he added. “We could be given £5m right now and it wouldn’t make the sled go faster – that’s ultimately where we’re at. The money basically just arrived too late and that’s where the frustration was because it could have been used to help us. I think UK Sport needs to go back and look at it and see what can be handled differently next time.”
That message was echoed by Hall, who added: “Since our funding was cut back in 2019, it’s been a hard journey to get here but the hard work and sacrifice is starting to pay off with World Cup medals and obviously Olympic qualification. Obviously all our hard work has already been done so no amount of money can help boost our performance at this late stage.”
Montell Douglas, who competed for Team GB at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in athletics, will team up with McNeill in the women’s bobsleigh.
McNeill, who made the World Cup podium when she and Nicoll won a maiden World Cup silver in Sigulda this month, added: “It’s been a very different journey to the Games this time round but I’ve loved every moment of making it happen. I can’t wait to get back on the ice out there and represent Team GB.”
The team’s leader Bruce Tasker, who won bronze in Sochi in 2014, also predicted a strong showing. “It’s really exciting heading into an Olympic Games with teams producing their best results ever,” he said. “You cannot ask more of an athlete than to be the best they have ever been and both teams have achieved record performances this year.”