Mica Moore: ‘Defying barriers’ to make it in two sports

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At 25, Mica Moore jokes that she is starting to get a bit old in sporting terms. Many would laugh that one off, but perhaps Mica’s perspective comes from achieving great things in two sports in a short space of time.

A finalist in the 4x100m relay at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, she has since taken up bobsleigh, leading her to world junior gold three years later, and most recently a top-eight finish at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

She has recently returned to her first love, competing in the Welsh Athletics Indoor Championships in Cardiff, where she is based.

Competitions and training have taken her as far as Pyeongchang, Calgary and Arizona, but Mica is incredibly proud of her heritage and the places where her passion for sport developed.

“Both of my parents are sports enthusiasts. When I was around 15, we decided I was best at athletics, having tried gymnastics, hockey and horse riding. My mum took me to Newport Harriers where I spent a few years and then I joined Cardiff AAC. It was a social thing and I got a chance to improve without it being too serious.”

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Rugby-playing dad Lawrence then took on the role of coach himself. “There was then a time when I didn’t have a coach so my dad said ‘I’ll learn as best as I can’ and he’s doing an alright job!”

Things didn’t go too badly on track either, with medals collected at not only Welsh, but British Universities and UK Inter-Counties Championships along the way, before suddenly something changed.

“After the Commonwealths in Glasgow, I went away on a warm weather training camp in Arizona in 2015 and then one day I woke up not feeling great. That turned into a virus and I could barely run 30m. I was in real pain, having spasms and I ended up putting on weight.”

Mica admits she went through tough times facing up to this reality. “It was really sad. I wasn’t able to do what I knew I was capable of. I didn’t feel sharp or quick, but I was determined not to give up.”

Then came a thoughtful message from a friend on the Great Britain bobsleigh team, who suggested she come along for trials. “I’d put on weight, but he said ‘that’s perfect’, as you need to be heavier for bobsleigh!”

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“Things went really well, I progressed to one of the highest scores they’d ever had in testing in just an eight-week turnaround without all of the specific training. I then came first in testing on a push track in Bath, which meant I got to go away with the GB team for the first time, on ice in Calgary.”

It was at this point where Mica’s career began to reach new heights. She was excelling and proving herself in a new sport, even if there were a fair few differences compared to a running track.

“There is the sheer speed, it is a dangerous sport. In athletics, I am completely in control and choose my speed. But also, I’m at the back of the sled, and it’s Mica (McNeill, her coincidentally-named GB team-mate) who has to drive us. To give that responsibility to someone else is quite scary. But then again, I’m not sure I could cope with that either.”

Whatever fears she had, Mica would calmly chat them through father-to-daughter as her dad retained overall control of her training programme. “If I was worried about crashing in the first corner, he’d say ‘well, has Mica ever crashed in that corner? No’.”

Talking of positives, there is one thing about bobsleigh that pleases Mica in particular. “You run a lot less distance, which is wonderful for a sprinter. I don’t run over 150m, which is heaven!”

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The more experienced sledders can’t help but laugh about this. “The main banter is that they see athletes as precious and like divas! I’m not a diva, but I think we’re all a little bit shocked as you don’t just turn up and run. You carry the sled, put it on the ice, you do all the mechanics because there is no-one else.”

Mica admits athletes can get “spoilt” by the luxury of being able to train indoors. “If it’s raining or cold…I go inside…you go to a bobsleigh competition and there is usually a car park or a dry bit of road and it could be covered in snow and ice.”

After adapting to these things and working on strength in order to push the 190kg sled, Mica combined with her namesake to win the 2017 Junior World Championships in the appropriate town of Winterberg in Germany.

Yet like the sport itself, another twist was up ahead. “After a great first year in bobsleigh, we found out that our funding had been cut due to an overspend. It was shocking and devastating.”

Out of triumph came a huge setback. The team was at pains to decide what to do next. “We had a meeting and the idea of doing a car wash was suggested. Bobsleigh is an expensive sport so it would have had to be a big car wash!”

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“We decided to put up a GoFundMe page. It went viral. In six days we raised £30,000 and we were able to go on with the season, freight the sled, book accommodation and fuel ourselves for competition!”

With a debt of gratitude to public generosity, the pair were delighted to make the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. They even carried the words “powered by the people” on their sled. It was another turn in fortune for Moore, just a couple of years after taking up the sport.

Sometimes they say the bad helps you appreciate the good. Mica reflects that “losing funding was devastating, but in a way it made the journey even more incredible.

“Knowing there was a troop of people willing you to do well was amazing. There were always messages of support and you felt like people were just happy for you to be there.”

With the pressure cooled and motivation high, the two-woman team came in ranked tenth and finished eighth, the best ever by British female Olympians. “We were super happy. When Mica braked at the end, it was an amazing feeling knowing we’d done it. We defied barriers to even get there. I was glad I had a helmet on so people didn’t see me crying.”

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Mica now has some wonderful achievements to look back on. “Everyone expects the top one to be the Olympic Games. It was a proud moment and it was a challenge to achieve. Bobsleigh is quite a scary sport. I like Disney films…I’m not your usual ‘get your hands dirty kind of girl’.”

“High up on the list is representing Wales at the Commonwealth Games. If you ask any Welsh person, they are so passionate about being Welsh. Putting on that red vest was a special moment.

She won the bronze medal at the 2019 Welsh Indoors in another proud moment. “It’s daunting to go back to something but I’m glad I’ve had the chance to do athletics again.”

2018 was a stressful year and a life-changing one. But then again, in the life of Mica Moore, two years are rarely the same. Having recently announced a break from bobsleigh, she is studying for a masters in Sports Broadcasting alongside running and has a number of ambitions she wants to achieve.

“I know I’m not old, but I’m starting to get a bit old in sporting terms, so it’s good to have a plan for after. I really enjoy athletics and could have a go at a new sport. I’m loving what I’m doing now including the radio side. I also enjoy presenting and it would be great to do some of that in future.”

Now for some Quickfire Questions!

England or Wales?

Wales!

Cardiff or Newport?

Oh gosh, I feel like I’m going to get hate mail! I was born and I live in Cardiff. I went to school in Newport. I’ll say Cardiff.

Athletics or bobsleigh?

Athletics because it’s warmer!

Think I can guess this one: indoor or outdoor?

Indoor. I can keep my hair dry. We crashed once in the bobsleigh and I could see my plait sliding along the ice. It was frozen solid!

Olympics or Commonwealths?

Obviously the Olympics with GB were incredible, but the Commonwealths were so much fun, so it’s close.

Interviewer or Interviewee?

I think interviewer, I like getting stories from people.

Me too! Ok finally, who are some of your favourite Micas? You can have Mica McNeill, Mica Paris, Mika Hakkinen, or MIKA the singer?

Well I’ve got to say my pilot, Mica McNeill for getting me round safely at the Olympics. Mica Paris is who I was named after. My mum wanted to call me Mica Lolita Wanita Pepita, but my dad was sensible and said ‘we’re not doing that’. I do also like a bit of MIKA’s Grace Kelly.

What a throwback!

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First published on: 23 January, 2019 2:57 pm

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