MICA McNEILL achieved the best World Cup result of her career as she started 2019 in style, but the County Durham bobsleigh driver was still left with mixed emotions after a dramatic weekend in the German resort of Altenberg.

McNeill finished fourth in the opening World Cup event of the year, with race officials promoting her two places after a timing error meant the initial results sheet only had her in sixth position.

However, she might well have claimed a podium position inside the top three had the start of her final run not been hampered by a plastic cup that was thrown onto the track by a spectator.

McNeill, and her team-mate Montell Douglas, were momentarily affected by the incident, which unquestionably had a detrimental effect on her push start.

The loss of a few hundredths proved crucial, as the British duo had been in first position after their opening run, which was arguably the strongest of their entire career.

McNeill had never previously led a World Cup field, but her performance on the first run confirmed the extent of her progress over the last 12 months, which was also flagged up by a series of impressive results in North America at the end of last year.

Heading into their final run at the head of the field, McNeill and Douglas were never quite able to recover from their missile-affected start.

They eventually missed out on a medal by just four hundredths of a second, and while a fourth-placed finish is still McNeill’s best-ever World Cup display, there was still an element of ‘what might have been’ as she reflected on her performance.

“It was bittersweet,” said the Consett 25-year-old, who made her Winter Olympic debut in Pyeongchang at the start of last year. “We were leading after Heat One, after a very solid push start and a very, very good drive, and the equipment was running well.

“In Heat Two, we dropped back, and were confused when we reached the bottom of the track. There was a cup thrown into the track, which I did feel and thought it was a snowball, and felt something splash up into my face.

“When we finished, it was explained to us what had happened. We spoke to a member of the jury, who watched the start back, and they checked what had occurred. It was found there was an issue with the timings, which meant we were promoted to fourth.”

McNeill is back in action this weekend, with the German town of Konigssee hosting the next round of World Cup competition.