Irish bobsled: Aoife Hoey and Claire Bergin with reserve Leona Byrne

The Irish Women's Olympic bobsleigh team are facing a huge financial burden to compete in the games, the Irish team chief has revealed.

Aoife Hoey, 26, and Claire Bergin, 25, compete in their event in Vancouver on Tuesday.

According to chef de mission, Siobhan Hoey, the costs they have incurred are "astronomical".

"The girls have been left very out of pocket. While we received a grant from the Olympic Council and they were generous to do that, before we could come to Vancouver our family and the people of Portarlington had to raise money for the sled. They range in price from €40,000 to €100,000, which is massive.

"Even just for the runners on the sleds, this came to a cost of €4,000. The transport of the sled alone too has also proved hugely costly, at €5,000 a pop to ship it from place to place for very short transitional periods. These are just some of the costs we have to face," says Hoey.

She says there has been no financial gain for the two Irish competitors whatsoever, saying that it is "quite the opposite".

"As a sister to Aoife and having seen the exact financial situation over the last few years, I can honestly say we have all been left out of pocket. It is a labour of love for the girls at this stage."

Hoey also says her sister must receive full sponsorship from now on if she intends to continue her professional career in bobsleighing.

"It has got to the stage where for Aoife to continue on, she will need to be fully sponsored. She has to be able to do this full-time and to be able to pay her mortgage. She is too aware of the financial situation of our association, knowing when we were very short on money and having to worry about all of this on top of everything else."

Hoey says the Irish women are competing against countries that have budgets of $1m for the event.

"Being from a small nation and being aware of the financial difficulties, we have had to try and get by on family money and other contributions to piece the costs together."

The team had to face an agonising wait before learning that they could compete in the games, after protests from both Australia and Brazil in a bid to take the Irish team's place in Vancouver.