Great Britain’s four-man bobsleigh team have finally been awarded their Olympic bronze medals almost six years after the Russian doping scandal denied them a podium place in Sochi.
John Jackson, Joel Fearon, Bruce Tasker and Stuart Benson received the medals in a presentation from Princess Anne midway through a glittering British Olympic Association Ball in London.
It marked the culmination of a tortuous fight to receive what the team always believed was rightfully theirs, following the disqualification of two Russian crews that had finished above them.
Let’s hear it for our four-man bobsleigh team – Sochi 2014 bronze medallists
— Team GB (@TeamGB) November 21, 2019
The British quartet initially fifth after their four runs in Sochi, just 0.11 seconds off the podium, and had left the Russian city convinced their enormous efforts had not quite proved enough.
Fearon, the only member of the team who is still competing in the sport, admitted the emotion of the evening would not quite make up for the feeling of what they missed out on in Sochi.
Fearon told the PA news agency: “It’s nice but we still missed out on all the amazing stuff that would have happened if we had got the medal out there.
“We gave our lives for that opportunity and we went away thinking we weren’t good enough, but it turns out we actually were.
“I have three boys now but at the time I only had my eldest, Simeon, who was four years old.
“He actually made me a medal when I got home and told me not to worry. It’s great that I can show him a real one now.”
— Team GB (@TeamGB) November 20, 2019
For Jackson, who had fought back from a ruptured Achilles just eight months before the Games, and subsequently led the fight for justice, the frustration of the process also remains palpable.
“We were so sure we were going to win a medal in Sochi that we all our little bags packed at the top of the run with our podium kits in them, ready to change,” recalled Jackson.
“Since then it’s been such a rollercoaster of emotions. Even when we got the call from the BOA to say it was actually going to happen, I don’t think I really believed it.
“We’ve still been going round schools and giving talks but it’s hard to tell kids you’re an Olympic medallist when you’ve got nothing to show them. Did I really feel like one until I got that medal round my neck? I don’t think so.”
The ceremony was especially poignant for Tasker, who left Sochi having been identified as the natural replacement for Jackson, who announced his retirement immediately following the Games.
But Tasker, now 32, was forced to abandon plans to pilot the team at the Pyeongchang Games after suffering a minor stroke in January 2018.
Tasker said: “It’s obviously a very emotional moment. For me this is the ending to our story. We had such a wonderful tale leading up to the Games, and it’s a shame it’s taken so long to write the final chapter.”
Benson added: “We missed out in Sochi but we can’t do anything about that now. We’ve got our medals in the best way possible, and hopefully that will send out a message that justice has been served.”