Britain's biathletes are facing a new threat to their hopes of representing the nation at the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018.

The team, which stages its national championships in Rupolding, Germany this week, has been without a sponsor since the end of their relationship with Birmingham healthcare provider Aspen last summer, leaving racers to pay their own way to major meetings.

Financial constraints are nothing new to the Great Britain squad which has been represented at every Winter Olympics since the sport was introduced to the programme at Squaw Valley in 1960.

But the increasing prospect of dropping out of the world's top 25 nations - and the implications of severely restricted qualification quota - has forced the British Biathlon Union to employ increasingly desperate measures.

Retired pair Lee-Steve Jackson and Kevin Kane have strapped on the skis again this season to form relay squads in the apparently vain hope of propping up the crucial ranking position.

BBU general secretary Mark Goodson said: "Since we lost our previous sponsor we have had to cut costs and choose our World Cups increasingly carefully - with all the implications that has for the rankings.

"Apart from some backing from the Army Winter Sports Association and the sport's governing body, we get nothing and it is an increasing burden. We still hope to get to Pyeongchang but the days when we had four athletes qualifying for a Games are a distant memory."

While Amanda Lightfoot has built on her Olympic debut in Sochi to perform consistently on the women's World Cup circuit, 21-year-old Scott Dixon has emerged as the best hope for the men's team of reaching South Korea.

Dixon, whose father Mike represented Great Britain in six consecutive Olympics between 1984 and 2002, is the only civilian member of the team and concedes that his love for the sport comes at considerable and increasing expense.

Dixon, from Aviemore, told Press Association Sport: "It is fair to say at the moment we are in the worst position we have ever been in and we are trying all kinds of different methods to get a sponsor on board.

"We have not been able to go to all the events and as a consequence we are struggling to maintain our position in the rankings. We have had to pay our own way to a lot of the races and at the moment it certainly doesn't look pretty.

"But it's something you get used to. I have a personal sponsorship which keeps me going in the summer and I am convinced that Pyeongchang remains a totally realistic goal. It will come down to how much I can make things work off my own back."