Sports

Crowdfunding and rented sleds: how bobsleigh teams get by

Saturday, February 24, 2018

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AFP) — The hard up Australian bobsleigh team were forced to rent their sled to compete at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics — and they're not the only ones looking for cheaper ways to get by.

Except for the top teams, many competitors at the Games struggle to raise enough funds to take part in the expensive sport.

Some turn to crowdfunding, while other minnows rent their sleds to race in what has been dubbed Formula One on ice.

“Bobsleigh is arguably one of the most expensive sports going,” Hayden Smith, of Australia's four-man bobsleigh team, said yesterday.

“Most of the new sleds that people are rocking here for the four-man are around the 100,000-euro mark.

“For us, we just don't have that kind of money,” Smith added. “We are predominantly self-funded.

“We do it on a shoestring and we make it stretch, but our budgets would be a fraction of the cost of other teams that are here.”

Britain's Mica McNeill and Mica Moore turned to crowdfunding to make it to PyeongChang, while Jamaica were thrown into turmoil when their coach departed and claimed she was “legally responsible” for their rented sled.

Eventually, a Jamaican beer company stepped forward and bought the sled, enabling the women's team to turn their Cool Runnings dream into reality.

The Aussies, meanwhile, turned to the Dutch for help.

“The two- and the four-man sleds we use are rented to us by the Dutch federation so they are going to go straight back to the Netherlands after this,” Smith's pilot, Lucas Mata, said.

Even that is not cheap, however, because it costs 4,000-5,000 euros each way just to ship the sled over.

“It's a decent amount of money,” Mata said.

Thankfully, seeing that Mata turned the sled over during training, the Dutch accept that a bit of wear and tear is all part of the high-octane sport.

“We have contracts made up for that sort of thing so if anything does go extremely wrong then we're all right for it,” he said.

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