Crowdfunding your way to the Winter Olympics

PyeongChang 2018 mascot and logo

PyeongChang 2018 mascot and logo

Over the weekend I spent a lot of my time watching TV. The Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang are well under way and I am hooked. Snowboarding, skiing, ice dancing, and speed skating – even curling (which really isn’t all that boring) – I am watching it all. Then on Sunday as Claire Balding was introducing the men’s Bobsleigh doubles completion she mentioned that the GB female Bobsleighers had their funding cut. Ummm what. The men’s teams – and there are multiple – still had their funding but not the one single women’s team?

In September 2017 5-months before the Olympics were to begin Mica McNeill found out that her team’s funding had been cut. What must that feel like? All those sacrifices, practices, competitons, sweat, blood, and tears. What was it all worth? Earlier in February McNeil spoke to The Guardian and this is what she said:

It’s like imagining having a dream or a goal and sacrificing your family, your friends, holidays, Christmas Day. You’re sacrificing all this in the gym, on the sprint track, giving everything for so long – and then someone else has made a mistake that leaves nothing. It’s hard to explain the devastation. Part of me couldn’t believe it but at the same time, with that system, it didn’t surprise me.

It didn’t surprise her? What in the world went wrong with BBSA (British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association)? They received £5million of lottery funding to cover the four year cycle ending at Pyeongchang but suddenly there was no money for the women’s team. Where in the world did it go?

Just as a spectator of both the Summer and Winter Games it is so obvious to me that some sports are more expensive (and therefore exclusionary) than others. The Winter sports are definitely in the vomiting money category. Most people can afford a pair of trainers but not a bobsleigh. You rely on your association to help. Because that is what they are there for, especially when you have potential. Earlier in 2017 McNeil and Mica Moore (the brakewoman) won gold in the Junior Bobseigh World Championships.

Yet their association told them that they were ‘focussing resources on winning medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics’ and that meant that they as women weren’t deemed to match the potential of men. In other words they didn’t have enough penis to warrant continued funding.

Sport is supposed to be equal. Sexism is supposed to not exist (as I keep being told). Yet this was not equality. McNeill went to the public and just over a week later she had crowdfunded enough to keep her team going. The governing body then freed up some money to partially fund McNeill. (The money growing tree is certainly alive and well when you’re publically called out on your gender biases).

Here’s the thing. The women’s team is ranked 12th in the world. The two men’s teams are ranked 11th and 12th in the world. Yet the power of the penis prevailed. The men’s completion has already started (and as I write this it hasn’t finished and will have by the time you read this). The women’s competition has just started and I am keeping everything, everything crossed for the team powered by the people.

Mica McNeill, right, the pilot of the GB women’s bobsleigh team, prepares to start a training run with her brakeman Montell Douglas at Königssee in January 2018. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/Guardian

Mica McNeill, right, the pilot of the GB women’s bobsleigh team, prepares to start a training run with her brakeman Montell Douglas at Königssee in January 2018. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/Guardian

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