HAVING raised more than £30,000 through a crowd-funding initiative, Mica McNeill will attempt to strengthen her Winter Olympic qualifying hopes when she competes in the opening Bobsleigh World Cup event of the season in the American resort of Lake Placid this weekend.

McNeill needs to retain a place in the world’s top 30 to secure a qualifying spot for next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and has spent the last fortnight in the US completing her preparations for the start of the World Cup series.

She was initially frustrated by an unseasonably warm spell that meant it was difficult to get on the ice, but her funding drive means she has still been able to get in some much-needed sliding practice with her first-choice brake-woman Mica Moore.

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McNeill, who is from Consett, launched her fund-raising initiative after the British Bobsleigh authorities initially announced they would not be able to finance a women’s team to compete at the Winter Olympics.

The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association have subsequently offered a limited degree of support, but McNeill has raised sufficient funds to self-finance herself through the World Cup season and on to Pyeongchang.