The new Olympic Channel brings you news, highlights, exclusive behind the scenes, live events and original programming, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
Jazmin Sawyers has since swapped ice for sand by turning her attention to long jump, but McNeill has progressed to become Team GB’s lead female bobsleigh driver, and will be aiming for a medal when she makes her full Olympic debut in PyeongChang alongside namesake and brakewoman Mica Moore. Here, the 24-year-old reveals how her experiences at the YOG laid the foundation for her development into a world-class athlete
It was the first-ever Winter YOG, and going there as an 18-year-old was definitely the most fun sporting experience I’ve ever had. As soon as you get to senior level you have targets, there are pressures, and you start to expect more of yourself. But I was at the YOG with people my own age, and there wasn’t a lot of pressure to get results – the focus was on enjoying the sport.
I got involved in bobsleigh in 2010, but I didn’t go on ice until 2011 – so I’d only done a matter of weeks of bobsleigh before the YOG. I didn’t know what to expect going into the competition, but I picked it up quickly and it paid off! The silver medal set me up nicely to get into the senior Team GB squad – so that result alone has allowed me to have a future in the sport.
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. Even being able to watch the other winter sports made it seem like so much more than a regular sporting event.
I’ve watched [British freestyle skier] Katie Summerhayes’ progress since the YOG, and obviously Jazmin’s [Sawyers] as well. We don’t usually see YOG athletes from other sports, but it’s nice to follow their journeys because we started at the same time.
Definitely. It gives younger athletes the opportunity to perform on a world stage. Right now, if an 18-year-old walked into our bobsleigh programme, they wouldn’t be able to get [selected for] competitions – but the YOG allows you to practise competing against international athletes, which is really important for your senior career.
We have a very busy programme; we train six days a week and a number of those are two sessions a day, so when you’re finished you just try your hardest to recover so that you can get the most out of the next day. If I do have any down time, I love to go home and spend time with family and friends. It’s calm in the summer because we don’t go anywhere – and last summer I was just in England training – but I do love when winter comes and we’re moving around, and it’s that busy lifestyle. I really enjoy it.
It was amazing. Before that, the YOG silver medal was my career highlight, but now I have to say it’s winning the World Junior Championships in Winterberg (Germany), because that much more time, effort and hard work went into the result. Mica [Moore] only got involved in the summer of 2016, so it’s amazing how quickly she’s progressed and picked up the sport – and I think there’s still so much more to come, because we’re such a new team.
I want to make sure I keep improving from the previous year, and if I do that I think the results will take care of themselves. Right now, PyeongChang 2018 is the goal – I want to get to the Republic of Korea and really show what I can do. In PyeongChang, a medal would be a huge result and we have chance – but at Beijing 2022, I’d expect a medal from myself. I’ll be 27, which would be the right age as I’d be at my peak physically, and I’d have that much more experience.
It has definitely helped. I feel like I know what to expect, just from feeling that YOG vibe and knowing the schedules, processes and how the Olympic Games work. I can’t wait!