Members of Great Britain’s Olympics-bound bobsleigh squad have accused UK Sport of a “misleading” attempt to take some of the credit for the remarkable success of their recent World Cup season.
Despite being stripped of funding following a poor performance in Pyeongchang four years ago, Brad Hall steered his four-man crew to three podium places and an overall ranking of fourth heading into the Beijing Games.
Hall and brakeman Greg Cackett – who also won three two-man medals – were incensed by comments from UK Sport chair Katherine Grainger last week which appeared to imply their qualification bid had been boosted by a £120,000 grant from the Beijing Support Fund.
Cackett, who has been confirmed in a team that also includes Nick Gleeson and Olympic debutant Taylor Lawrence, was behind a strongly-worded response on the team’s Instagram story which railed at the report’s “inaccuracies” and stressed his team were “solely responsible” for this season’s success.
Cackett said on Thursday: “Whether they (UK Sport) 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 after we could have done anything with it.
“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 need to go back and look at it and see if it can be handled differently next time.”
An initial £40,000 was awarded to the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association to split between the three bobsleigh squads, with an additional £80,000 advanced solely to Hall’s medal-winning squad as recently as last week, in the wake of the final race of the World Cup season.
UK Sport appeared eager to draw a line under the incident, with a spokesman telling the PA news agency: “The athletes, and so many people involved in the sport, deserve all the successes they have had. We know this has been achieved without public funding.
“We had to make some tough decisions for the Beijing cycle, which unfortunately had an impact on bobsleigh.
“What Brad Hall, Greg Cackett, Nick Gleeson, Taylor Lawrence and the wider squad have achieved in the build-up to Beijing is testament to their passion for the sport and their determination to achieve success.”
Hall picked up three World Cup silver medals in the four-man World Cup season, and enjoyed similar success in the two-man event, in which he will be partnered by Gleeson at the Games.
In a team also including Gleeson and Cackett, Hall had finished in a disappointing 17th place in Pyeongchang in 2018, a result that contributed to the decision to axe funding which was also shaped by governance concerns.
Hall said: “Since our funding got cut it’s been a hard journey to get here, but that hard work is starting to pay off with World Cup medals and obviously Olympic qualification.
“It obviously feels much more rewarding to do it this way. But at this late stage we’re just looking to focus on the Olympics and we don’t want to have much in the background to take away from all our hard work and success.”
Mica McNeill, who won a World Cup silver medal in Latvia earlier this month, will return in the two-woman bob with former sprinter Montell Douglas, who thus becomes the first woman to represent Great Britain at both a Winter and Summer Olympics, having coincidentally also competed in Beijing in 2008.
A second four-man team, piloted by Lamin Deen and including Olympic long-jump champion Greg Rutherford, failed to fulfil the qualifying criteria for the Games.
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