A Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) medallist in 2012, Mica McNeill looked set to miss out on her Olympic dream in September – but an audacious crowdfunding campaign has helped her reach PyeongChang.
Great Britain may not be among the world’s top winter sports nations, but it has built a great tradition in sliding. The country has won sliding medals at every Olympic Winter Games since 1998 – including gold and bronze in the women’s skeleton at the weekend. And this Tuesday, Mica McNeill begins her bid to become the latest British medallist on ice.
School to sled
McNeill has a fellow British bobsleigh star to thank for her sporting career. When McNeill was 15 years old, her school was visited by Nicola Minichiello, a three-time Olympian and a former world champion. Minichiello was looking for young athletes to join the British bobsleigh programme ahead of the first Winter YOG, and saw potential in the teenager.
At the time, McNeill specialised in hockey and netball, and knew nothing about bobsleigh. But she thrived at her first test runs, and quickly joined the national programme.
I learned a lot, but the main thing was how to deal with a big competition: from preparing the sled to preparing yourself physically and mentally, and learning how to deal with pressure.Mica McNeill Great Britain
A YOG to savour
Just two years after she took up the sport, McNeill teamed up with Jazmin Sawyers to win silver in the two-girl bobsleigh at the first-ever Winter YOG in Innsbruck.
“Going there as an 18-year-old was definitely the most fun sporting experience I’ve ever had,” she says. “My success at the YOG – and the fun of the competition – gave me a taste of what could come, and I wanted to experience that again.
“I learned a lot, but the main thing was how to deal with a big competition: from preparing the sled to preparing yourself physically and mentally, and learning how to deal with pressure.”
And the YOG silver medal wasn’t McNeill’s only Olympic experience in 2012. Later that year, she was one of the torchbearers in the Olympic Games London 2012 torch relay.
After the Games, Sawyers decided to focus on long jump, winning silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and then finishing eighth at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. McNeill, though, stuck with sliding, and has since added further medals to her YOG silver. With Mica Moore as the brakewoman, McNeill won gold in the 2017 IBSF Junior World Championships.
Show of support
In September 2017, with the new season just weeks away, McNeill and Moore lost their funding from their national federation. The pair’s Olympic dream was in tatters.
But McNeill and Moore weren’t going to be beaten that easily. A few days later, the duo launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise USD 42,000, and hit their target within a week! Their 2017-18 World Cup season included a fifth-place finish in Whistler (Canada), the best British result in a World Cup event since a second-place finish in January 2009 by Minichiello – McNeill’s original mentor.
And now thanks to their own dedication and the generosity of the British public, McNeill and Moore are set to make their Winter Olympic debut in PyeongChang. The whole country will be rooting for them.
Mica McNeill and Mica Moore compete in the two-woman bobsleigh competition, which begins on Tuesday 20 February.