Possibly the greatest brakeman in GB’s history, ‘Mr Bobsleigh’ himself has given us a fascinating insight to his career, his brush with death and finding Olympic success 5 and a half years after he and his crewmates earned it. Settle in for this one he's a talker...
Credit: Bruce Tasker (via whatever unpaid photographer's watermark that is)
TBM: Big Brucey, thanks for speaking to us. And thank you for giving me more stuff to transcribe than any of the other athletes did. I really enjoyed sifting through it all.
Tell us about your background, how'd you get into bobsleigh?
BT: Ok, so I began training for athletics as a 13 year old after being spotted at one of those old county sports days. I went to Bath University when I got older and trained in a world class athletics group with the likes of Jason Gardener (GB Olympic Gold Medallist 100m relay).
I primarily trained in 200m and 400m and was moderately successful I suppose! I was indoor 400m U20 national champion 3 years in a row.
I got to know Jacko (pilot John Jackson, Olympic bronze medallist), through this time. He had spotted that I was bigger than most sprinters and he tried to recruit me for bobsleigh on a number of occasions.
"I actually declined him for a good 18 months"
At the time the sport was unfunded and it didn’t suit my lifestyle, I was working in pubs and restaurants to fund my athletic career.
Fast forward and certain things had changed for me. I’d stopped athletics after realising I wasn’t going to make it pro and had a lot more free time. It was during this period that Jacko got in touch again to come to a testing day, and I thought, ‘why not?’.
I happened to have that particular day off work so I went to the Bath Uni push track to test. I remember it was a miserable day, cold and wet with soggy leaves everywhere. It took hours trying to get the technique right, but after a few tests I thought it went pretty well.
I was actually on a weekend away with my partner, Kat, when I got the call from Gary Anderson (former GB performance director), to see if I could go to a race in Italy the following week. I managed to get the week off work and went for it.
In Cesana, Italy, I remember being really keen and asking all sorts of questions about the next track on the circuit and getting a bit ahead of myself. Jacko had to calm me down and remind me that I hadn’t done it yet and we had to see if I even liked it.
"I knew I was going to love it though"
After hopping in the sled for the first time, I never looked back.
A few months later and I was at my first World Championships. So I really, literally, dove into bobsleigh headfirst which suited me down to the ground. I’ve loved it ever since.
A youthful Bruce Tasker in his thug life sprinting days
TBM: You called time on your career in 2018 after a serious health issue, tell us about that time:
BT: Yeah, so building up to Korea, I wanted to go as a pilot after having been a brakeman at Sochi. It was a really exciting prospect and the new adventure of potentially getting a medal in the front seat was hugely attractive.
A couple of us were picked for the ADP (GB’s Accelerated Driver Programme), myself, Ben Simons and Brad Hall. All was going really well, we were getting better with every season. We had a really short time-frame to target a medal at an Olympic Games, but that was the plan.
"Sadly after a strong start, about two seasons out from the Games it felt like the wheels came off"
The BBSA had bad press, all sorts of allegations flying around, team morale was rock bottom and there was a fair bit of tension. Not optimal environments for elite performance.
I lost my sled Olympic year too. It was a rented sled from the Swiss programme and, unbeknownst to me, was due back before the Games.
The management who recruited me then left, along with the coach who had taught me to drive and was an influential figure in my career up to that point. Olympic year was supposed to be about building confidence for the Games and ended up being a desperate attempt just to qualify.
I struggled getting to grips with the new sleds and my results were hugely affected. It was crazy, I was now looking at not qualifying for the Games at all. For what the ADP programme set out to do, we were seriously off-pace. The whole thing felt like it was crumbling.
Add to that, I suffered a really bad adductor tear in training, with limited opportunity to get better.
The BBSA took the decision to allow me to stay home after Christmas 2017 for intense rehab at Bisham Abbey (national rehab centre), with the intention of returning to the squad a couple weeks later.
TBM: This is where you ended up in hospital?
BT: Yep, whilst in this process, in the middle of the week, I got home after walking the dog and sat on my sofa to relax. All of a sudden I was overcome with extreme nausea and vertigo. I literally fell to my side on the sofa and it lasted about 10 seconds.
It was bizarre but it passed and I thought I was fine. Kat’s a doctor, and she was more concerned than I was at this point.
Sure enough, a few minutes later a much more severe episode brought me to the floor. I tried to lie on my back and stop the room spinning.
This was also when I started feeling my left arm tingling and my jaw stiffening up.
In hindsight, all the tell-tale signals were there.
This lasted a few minutes and we realised I needed to get to hospital. We managed to get me to the car, scrabbling along the wall for support, and Kat got me to A&E at Slough hospital.
I think the people in A&E thought I was just a rugb