McNeill targets Sochi 2014 Olympics after junior successes

13 February 2013 / 10:30

Sochi 2014 Team GB hopeful

Mica McNeill’s aim for the season was a Junior World Championship medal and, with that long been achieved, her focus on the Sochi 2014 Olympics has only grown deeper.

McNeill was just 15 when in 2009 she took up bobsleigh, inspired after meeting fellow Brit Nicola Minichiello who won the senior world title aged 30 that same year.

Minichiello is an example that the best female bobsleigh pilots don’t peak until their late 20s, or even 30s in her case, with British No.1 Paula Walker 27 this coming April.

However age has never been a barrier for McNeill and, with her taking up of the sport coinciding with the formation of the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics in 2012, she had an opportunity to impress.

Despite a three-year wait, she finished no lower than fourth in the four European qualification events for the Youth Olympics before winning silver in Igls with brakewoman turned long jumper Jazmin Sawyers.

A year later and McNeill has added to her medal haul by winning junior world bronze, this time with Nikki McSweeney, on the same ice in Austria and made her World Cup and World Championship debuts.

McNeill, now 19, finished 20th on her World Cup bow in Koenigssee before matching that finish two weeks later at her first senior World Championships in St Moritz.

Her aim since claiming world junior bronze has been on making her Olympic debut at Sochi 2014 with qualification based on world rankings as of January 20 next year.

Walker is almost assured of a place however only a maximum of two nations are allowed to field three crews, Germany a certainty to be one of them, and only a maximum of four nations are allowed to field two.

The latter would appear most likely achievable for Britain with three German crews and three American crews in the top ten of the current FIBT rankings before you get to Walker in 11th.

McNeill is the second best Brit in 20th however she faces competition from Victoria Olaoye, who is 21st to her 23rd in the World Cup rankings albeit she has competed at one more round.

Both are determined to reach Sochi 2014 and McNeill, after winning world junior bronze, said: “That's the goal [the Olympics] and is what any athlete aims for. It's got to be the target and hopefully I can achieve it.

"Winning world junior bronze still hasn't really sunk in. It was the perfect Christmas present and it was just a fantastic achievement to get bronze against what are some of the best teams in the world.

"We were up against the US, Germany, Austria, some of the top juniors, so when we crossed the line and saw we had got the bronze we just thought 'wow'. It was brilliant and we were over the moon.

"I had a bit of a repetitive strain injury in my Achilles from all the pushing off on the starts and had to have an injection which put me out for two weeks so I was lucky to be selected really.”

© Sportsbeat 2013