September 19, 2017 / 9:42 PM / a month ago

Olympics: Money runs out for British women's bobsleigh team

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s top female bobsleigh driver has turned to crowd-funding to keep her Olympic dreams alive after being told the national federation only had money to take men’s teams to Pyeongchang next year.

“My ambition is, and has always been, to compete at a Winter Olympic Games,” Mica McNeill, a silver medallist at the 2012 youth Winter Olympics and 2017 world junior champion, said on the gofundme page.

The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association could not be immediately contacted but the BBC quoted the BBSA as saying the programme was ”currently focusing resources on winning medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“We are actively seeking commercial funding to further support our world class programme and we will continue to do so,” it added.

McNeill said she had bought her own sled but needed to raise 30,000 pounds ($40,527.00) to compete in the World Cup season and secure her place.

The BBSA is the country’s best funded winter sports body with 11.5 million pounds, 6.5 million going to skeleton and five million for bobsleigh, allocated for the four-year cycle to Pyeongchang.

Bobsleigh’s funding was cut by some 50,000 pounds this year, with implementation of “an agreed Culture Action Plan” a condition of the award.

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The British body has been embroiled in controversy, with an independent review launched after allegations by some top athletes of a ‘toxic atmosphere’.

Performance director Gary Anderson and head coach Dominik Scherrer, a Swiss, have left in the past month, although there has been no suggestion of any wrongdoing by either man.

Three times Olympian Lee Johnston was named the new head coach last Saturday.

”I know that bobsleigh is an expensive sport but I just am really disappointed that it has come to this,“ McNeill told the BBC. ”They tried to tell us it was because we weren’t medal potential but I said, ‘You’re funding three men’s crews.’

“I said, ‘Why don’t you just be honest and say you’re not funding us because there’s no money?', and they said, ‘Yes, it’s because there’s no money -- if there was we’d be funding you’.”

“We know the potential in this women’s squad. I‘m only 23 and have another Olympic cycle or two in me and if this season is a miss, this will ruin my whole career...”

Britain’s only gold medals from the 2010 and 2014 Games were won by Amy Williams and Lizzy Yarnold in the women’s skeleton.

Women’s bobsleigh was added to the Olympic programme at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and Britain has yet to medal in it.

The men have won four medals over the years, including two-man gold in 1964 and a four-man bronze in 1998.

($1 = 0.7402 pounds)

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Ken Ferris

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