PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 21 (Reuters) - When British women’s bobsledders “Team Mica” were told their funding had suddenly been cut last September, they thought they were not going to make it to the Winter Olympics.
They were still in the British team with access to its doctors and coaches, but were informed there was not enough money to get them and their sled on the ice.
“Both Mica McNeill and Mica Moore were absolutely devastated about that,” said British bobsledder and two-times Olympian John Jackson. “They thought their chances were done”.
“It’s miserable. It’s absolutely miserable,” said Jackson, who also had to fund his own way to Olympic success before he joined the British team and competed in his first Winter Games in 2010.
“It’s so stressful because you can’t really focus on being a true athlete because any time you get is not about recovering, it’s about trying to find the funding to pay next week’s hotel bill”.
So, a few months before the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, the Micas set up an online crowd funding campaign in a last-minute bid to get them - and their sled - to South Korea.
“Due to the mismanagement of British Bobsleigh there is no longer any funding available for a women’s programme to compete in the Olympics,” 24-year-old Mica McNeill wrote on the GoFundMe.com website.
“I now must self-fund my winter season and I am asking for funding or sponsorship so that I am able to compete on the World Cup circuit this winter to secure my place in the next Olympics.”
Incredibly, it worked.
Within weeks, the pair had met their 30,000 pounds ($42,000) target and were on their way to the Olympics.
Now, ahead of their fourth and final run in Pyeongchang on Wednesday, they start in an impressive sixth place, with 46,300 pounds ($65,000) pledged and donations still rolling in.
“It’s made it possible for us to be here today and we’re so grateful to them,” Mica Moore told Reuters.
“It’s meant that we can book great accommodation, freight the sled the places where it needs to go, and make sure our nutrition is on point so that we’re the best athletes we can be at the Olympics.
“It’s been an incredible journey.”
But what made the funding cut all the more extraordinary was that the pair had performed at a similar level to the British men’s team, said Ken Childs, a sliding expert and owner of SlidingOnIce.com.
“Now that they’re here, they’re doing remarkable,” Childs said.
The British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association did not directly comment on the funding cut, but Performance Director Chris Price said the pair had made a “fantastic effort” in their first two runs on Tuesday.
“I know they are really enjoying the experience of their first Olympic Winter Games and they’re looking forward to getting back out there again for the final two runs,” Price said. (Reporting by James Pearson, editing by Ed Osmond)