Australia’s beleaguered bobsleighers said on Saturday they were just pleased to be at the Olympics having won a last-minute appeal against their exclusion and then suffering a comedy of errors in training.
In the run up to the Games, the Australians successfully argued at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that they should have a team after the International Bobsleigh Federation decided not to allocate them a continental quota place.
Pilot Astrid Loch-Wilkinson said they were struggling to catch up on valuable practice time at the notorious Whistler Sliding Centre track after training.
“I missed international training here,” she said having finished 14th four years ago in Turin.
“For me, I’m much more disadvantaged. I had a few little dramas in the training heats. The first drive, my visor came up on corner five and on the second run, the brakes got jammed at the finish.”
But with limited funds, Loch-Wilkinson and Cecilia McIntosh need the experience and exposure to try and get more backing.
“We’re really grateful to be here,” said Loch-Wilkinson.
“It was just an important step for us to be here, to build on past Olympics and get some exposure and get some sponsors. We definitely need some assistance.
“It’s definitely hard when you’re just two girls struggling with a credit card.”
Ireland’s two-man team could have been omitted as a consequence of Australia getting the green light to compete, but CAS recommended to the International Olympic Committee that a 21st sled be included into the existing field.
“That’s behind us now, we are just happy to be here,” said Irish brakeman Claire Bergin.
“Our association and our federation dealt with that. They were really good. It wasn’t a distraction but it was a bit disappointing.”
And her pilot Aoife Hoey said the pair had just focused on their training during the dispute.
“As athletes we just continued our training,” said the 26-year-old. “We actually qualified for the Olympics. We’re here and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
The heats for the women’s bobsleigh begin on Tuesday with the medal to be decided on Wednesday.