From fighting discrimination to crowd-funding to realise her Olympic dream, British bobsledder Mica McNeill will stop at nothing to ensure her career keeps heading downhill fast.
McNeill won a much-publicised battle to reach last year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, personally raising her £30,000 target after her sport’s domestic governing body announced it was stripping her of financial support just five months prior to the Games.
A best-ever British women’s result of eighth place, followed by a series of impressive top-six finishes on the World Cup circuit this season, have emphatically vindicated McNeill’s persistence in a sport so often seen as the preserve of privileged white males.
But despite having helped see off a culture of sexism and bullying within the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association which contributed indirectly to her sport’s funding cut, McNeill’s biggest challenges may be yet to come.
The BBSA may have been re-organised but it is struggling with the knock-on effects of the bad old days.
Shorn of UK Sport funding which amounted to approximately £1million per year for the build-up to Pyeongchang, the squad survived this season on a parachute payment of around £300,000, which for next season will dwindle to nothing.
Without the intervention of UK Sport, which could in theory, at its annual review in June, bestow McNeill with a bespoke funding award similar to that enjoyed by short-track star Elise Christie, it could soon be back to the internet campaigns.
The 25-year-old McNeill told Press Association Sport: “It’s difficult being a female bobsledder and I’ve had to deal with so much in my career just to get to this point where I am now.
“The build-up to Pyeongchang was a very difficult time but it was also one of the highlights of my career, getting all that support from people and going out to represent them at the Olympics.
“It was a turning point and it’s made me realise the sorts of things I’m going to have to overcome. It’s given me the drive to build on my opportunities and while the build-up to the next Olympics is going to be very hard, we’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”
Whilst McNeill herself was not directly involved in the broader allegations levelled against the GB programme two years ago, she did accuse the governing body of sexism after it decided to pull her funding in favour of supporting the three men’s teams.
“It was unbelievable to sit down and be told there was basically no money left for funding,” McNeill recalled.
“But those people who were discriminatory towards women in the sport are no longer around, so things are going in the right direction.”
On a global level, McNeill is an outspoken critic of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation’s continued resistance to the development of a programme for women’s four-man bobsleigh.
Canadian double Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries – who is currently taking a year away from the sport and has accused her domestic governing body of harassment – first drove an all-female team against men in a World Cup race in 2016.
But support for the venture has been sluggish, and McNeill believes the IBSF’s decision to instead favour women’s monobob – effectively, one-person bobsleigh – for inclusion on the Beijing 2022 programme is merely an attempt to placate those women pushing for more four-man participation.
McNeill added: “Obviously at the moment I have got to focus on getting the results which will help me get closer to Beijing but I would love to get involved in four-man bobsleigh.
“There are still a lot of men involved in the sport who believe women shouldn’t do four-man, so we still have to deal with that and keep fighting for equality and the right to do the same as men.
“It’s a constant fight against discrimination but we’ll keep on fighting it. Hopefully, if I achieve my ambition of winning an Olympic medal in Beijing, the knowledge of everything I’ve been through will make it all the more special.”