From shock of funding cut due to Covid to aiming for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics
Aspull’s Dan Bibby believes the England Rugby Sevens players should have been treated better throughout the pandemic following 12 months of uncertainty.
Only four years on from Great Britain winning silver at the Rio Olympics, the future of the sport was plunged into danger.
With the postponement of the Tokyo games after the outbreak of Covid-19 the RFU decided to stop funding the program.
In the months that followed, the lives of the players were turned upside down, both professionally and personally.
Fortunately, with the help of National Lottery funding, a Great Britain team will now compete at this summer’s Tokyo games.
Bibby, who was part of the team that won silver in Rio, states the team deserved more, after being told the program was being cut over video call.
He said: “After playing for nine years and giving so much, it was weird to hear that over Zoom.
“From the business side of it, I understand, but I feel we could’ve been treated a lot better a human. There’s always a time and a place to be kind, and I think they failed with that.
“It made me sad that it could’ve been over, I’ve been fortunate to travel the world, and that’s how my career would’ve ended. For some of the lads, it is the end of their journey, and they won’t get a shot at the Olympics they helped us to qualify for.”
Due to the financial strains caused by the situation, Bibby and his family had to relocate from their London home, with little help offered to support them.
“Being a northern lad, moving back has always been in the pipeline, but we had to do it sharpish, because without the job we couldn’t afford the mortgage. I was quite lucky there was a bit of a buffer with my contract ending because there was no help,” he said.
“We even asked if we could be furloughed but was told it didn’t make financial sense.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the sport, the 30-year-old says he wanted to be ready for if a solution was found.
“I didn’t know what the future would bring, but I gave everything to get into the best shape I could,” he said.
“I want to give everything to this year; I’ve been given a new lease of life. I’m enjoying being back and doing the things I used to take for granted.”
With National Lottery funding ensuring there will be a Great Britain team at the Tokyo Olympics, Bibby hopes to go one better than the silver he won in Rio.
“It would be a pretty special story if we could get gold. I’m just grateful for the little things, because it’s a luxury to be playing again,” he said.
“I’ve been pushing myself, but it’s a demanding game and keeping fit on your own isn’t the same, I never reached the level of exhaustion where I can’t give anything else. It’s weird how you miss it.”
During his time off from rugby, Bibby stepped up as a full time stay-at-home dad, which he jokes at times was tougher than pre-season training.
“It has been good and bad,” he laughed. “It definitely tested my patience and mentally prepared me for this. My four-year-old is really into sword fighting, so I’ve got some scars on my fingers.”
The extra time at home has prompted him to think about his future beyond 2021.
“I think it will be my last Olympics, travelling has taken its toll, I’ve been selfish for a long time,” he added. “I have a young family, so I don’t want to be missing out and it’s hard to leave them.
“The pandemic has taught me I need something after rugby, and to have that drive will make me a better parent. I can now be in the moment a lot more and enjoy this time to focus.”