Thu, 08 Mar 2018
IT WAS the end of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics a fortnight ago, but not the ensuing icy temperatures back home, which have renewed a fighting spirit within West Berkshire’s very own bobsleigh athlete.
Annabel Chaffey, a former Park House pupil, had to be content with watching the Games in South Korea from her home in Hamstead Marshall, but was thrilled by the record medal haul Team GB secured.
She was spurred on even more by the two-woman bobsleigh team, in the form of Mica McNeill and Mica Moore, who secured the best-ever result for a British female duo in the sport.
The pair’s eighth-place finish was all the more remarkable after they were forced to crowdfund their way to the Games, more than £30,000 from the British public following the withdrawal of their funding by the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association.
And their success has rekindled the Olympic flame burning brightly in 19-year-old Chaffey, who admitted she was “incredibly jealous” watching close friend, training partner and pilot McNeill create history.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is compete at an Olympic Games – to go to one would be such an exciting prospect,” said Chaffey.
“What the two Micas achieved out in Pyeongchang has absolutely inspired me even more.
“I saw all the coverage on the BBC, but I was also receiving all of their snapchats and looking at all my mates’ Instagram stories.
“It’s proven that we are pushing, that we can do it on the international stage, that the British girls are here and that they can compete with the best nations in the world.”
Chaffey will take a massive step towards realising her Olympic dream in four years’ time if UK Sport, the body responsible for distributing government funding to elite sport across the UK, increases its funding for winter sport during its next Olympic cycle.
The success of the two-woman sled at Pyeongchang paves the way for greater financial support for women’s bobsleigh, but even if that is not to be, Chaffey is well equipped to deal with the blow.
Having raised £1,000 to compete at the 2015 Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, funding herself, albeit on a much greater scale, would be a small price to pay for debuting in Beijing 2022.
“If money does become a barrier, I’ll have to crowdfund. I hope it doesn’t become an issue, but it isn’t alien to me,” said Chaffey. “The politics of sport is not what we take part for, we do it because we love doing what we do.”
The teenager’s career highlight was a fourth-place finish in the monobob at Lillehammer two years ago, which could feature in the 2022 Games.
But for now, Chaffey will continue her Olympic journey in the modest environs of Newbury.
She splits her intense training regime between the town’s Anytime Fitness gym, after a full day working at Adecco Recruitment, and Crookham Common’s athletics track, where she does sprint training.
And while it might be lonely training at the UK’s only bobsleigh and skeleton push-start track at Bath University, Chaffey firmly believes a new day for British winter sport is dawning.
“Surpassing our medal record has definitely shown that we are capable of competing with some of the best nations in the world and that we can be up there with them,” she says.
“I’d love to think that these Games have been a turning point for winter sport in Great Britain, regardless of the fact that we aren’t a snow nation.”