Mica McNeill is the #1 driver in the GB women’s bobsleigh team and right now she’s preparing hard for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
We’re less than five months from the greatest sporting event on earth, a time when athletes the world over are battling for berths and striving to reach the zeniths of physical conditioning. Think of Mica’s preparations and you might envisage endless sprints, strength work to develop power, push start training at the University of Bath’s sliding facilities and countless punishing drills and regimes. But if you’ve lately read her social media feeds or caught her on national TV news, you’ll have seen another facet of Mica’s Olympic preparation. A hurdle – some might say a wall – that presented the World Junior Champion with an all new challenge. Still, her hurdles, our gains I say; I’ve been lucky enough to pick the brains of several Olympic gold medallists, but, well: it’s always enlightening to study the journey. Especially one so rigorous as Mica’s.
“So last season we had a good one winning the Junior World Champs and meeting the BOA qualifying standard for the Olympics,” Mica explains. “We were then told due to an overspend within British bobsleigh we have been left to self-fund. It’s not really something I’d have thought about! I have always been focused on just becoming better and better each year and thought that would be something that would take care of itself. But now coming across a situation such as this we have to deal with what we have in front of us.”
As I transcribe this, Mica has just hit her funding target thanks to the support of a nation and sport lovers in general. No mean feat when you consider that said target was £30000. So all being well, Mica’s is a name you’ll be hearing from the lips of commentators next February but evidently the Consett, County Durham slider hasn’t had an easy route. Thirty grand’s worth of funding to find and then – well, the rest of it.
“I have devoted so much time,” Mica says when I ask about the more conventional sacrifices faced by an aspiring Olympian. “I left my hometown and moved to Bath to train there all summer. I train twice a day, six days a week. We do a lot of gym work and sprint training in the summer then we leave around October to compete and don’t return until March, (with a two week Xmas break). Then you are in full time bobsleigh mode!”
Given their commitments, I like to ask my guests if they ever consider the nine to five life. Sir Steve Redgrave’s response in particular is one that sticks in my mind: “No.”
A fair answer to what was probably a stupid question for a five time Olympic gold medal winner, but for an athlete whose achievements are still before them? I’m hoping for a few more ins and outs.
“Sometimes you envy others in a more “normal” job when they have their weekends off or get to take holidays and have so much time with family,” Mica admits. “But really I am so lucky to do what I do and be where I am I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
In fact it’s not true to say that all of Mica’s successes are still to come. The sacrifices she’s made have already paid dividends.
“So far my proudest moment was winning the Junior World Champs earlier this year!”
And you have to consider the full context of that win – and with it the weighty medal haul of other GB sliders hailing from a nation with not one naturally frozen track. All the more galling to have come so far, then, only to have the monetary rug pulled out from under. But with the Winter Olympics fast approaching, and her place now all but secured, I decide it’s a good time to ask Mica how she would define the concept of success.
“Success to me is having a goal, whatever that goal may be, and doing all you can to achieve it.”
A value nobody, especially after her most recent triumph, could refute. I ask Mica what advice she would give to someone looking to succeed as an Olympic athlete, because I think she is one of the most expertly placed athletes to offer guidance on the pitfalls – especially those you don’t see coming.
“My advice would be to remind yourself every day why you are working so hard. That will fuel the motivation and determination you need to achieve your dreams.”
It’s worth noting that despite such an overwhelming response to Mica’s fundraising, £30,000 is the minimum needed to compete. There are other costs too, inherent in any sport’s season. Just to ship the sled to the US for next month’s World Cup comes at a cost in the region of £10,000, so if you’d like to boost Mica’s already auspicious prospects, you can find details of her Go Fund Me page below.
My thanks to Mica for her time, which at this moment is thinly stretched..
Mica’s Go Fund Me page: www.gofundme.com/teammcneill