Jamaica national bobsleigh team
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The Jamaican national bobsleigh team represents Jamaica in international bobsledding competitions. The team first gained fame during their debut in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games four-man bobsled in Calgary, Alberta, where they were seen as underdogs as they represented a tropical nation in a winter sport. The team returned to the Winter Olympics in the two-man bobsled in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2014, and with a women's team for the first time in 2018. The team either failed to qualify or did not have a team during the other Winter Olympics.
The team, consisting of Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Michael White, Freddy Powell, and last minute replacement Chris Stokes, debuted at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. The team was coached by Howard Siler, an Olympic bobsledder for the United States in 1972 and 1980. They quickly became very popular, largely because of their status as the ultimate "underdog" story of the games. Alongside the novelty of a tropical country competing in a cold-weather sport, the team had very little experience going down a bobsled track, and borrowed spare sleds from other countries to compete. In a show of sporting camaraderie across national boundaries, other bobsledders were quick to give them guidance and support. They did not officially finish after losing control of the sled and crashing during one of their qualifiers. The movie Cool Runnings is loosely based on their experience at the 1988 games.
The team returned to the Olympics in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, but finished poorly. They qualified again for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. There, the Jamaican four sled stunned many of their critics by finishing in 14th place, ahead of the United States, Russia, Australia, and France.
At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the 2-man team of Winston Watts (pilot) and Lascelles Brown (brakeman) set the Park City bobsled track record and the Olympic record for the push-start segment of the 2-man race at 4.78 seconds. Jamaica failed to qualify for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, or the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. They did, however, qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia as a two-man bobsled.
Jamaica also competed in women's bobsleigh, with a crew of two, consisting of pilot Porscha Morgan and Wycombe Cole on brakes, winning World Push Championship titles in 2000 and 2001. They achieved the fastest push times in all runs, resulting in a landslide victory. These women initiated the Jamaican women bobsleigh team/program and were seen as contenders in the sport. However, the women's programme suffered a setback because of lack of funding, and brakeman Wynsome Cole suffered injuries due to a crash, resulting in the team having to withdraw from a few of the competitions.
The Jamaican women's team was revived after the 2014 Winter Olympics, with KayMarie Jones and Salcia Slack competing in a North American Cup race in November 2014, becoming the first Jamaican female crew to have competed internationally in over a decade. One of the athletes on the revived team was Natalia Stokes, daughter and niece of former Jamaican bobsledders Chris and Dudley Stokes.
Having qualified for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but lacking funding, the cryptocurrency Dogecoin community raised on the team's behalf $30,000 of the approximately $40,000 required within two days. An online campaign was set up, seeking to raise an additional $80,000 through the crowdfunding platform Tilt. When it closed on 22 January 2014, the campaign had raised $129,687, far surpassing the target.
After the 2014 Olympics former Olympic medallist and former coach of the Dutch and United States bobsleigh teams Todd Hays was appointed head coach and technical director of the Jamaican team. However he had to leave his role after one season due to a lack of funds to pay his salary, although he continued to work with the team in an unofficial capacity. Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation invested significantly in the team, buying a new sled for the women's crew of Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and Carrie Russell, and filling a number of coaching positions, with former British, Dutch and Brazilian coach Jo Manning becoming High-Performance Director, former Olympic and World Champion Sandra Kiriasis joining as driving coach and Dudley Stokes being appointed as coach responsible for of performance, mental preparation and general logistics. In January 2018, the Jamaican women's team secured qualification for the Olympics for the first time. However the men's team missed out on Olympic qualification by one position in the world rankings. Days ahead of the start of bobsleigh training at the Games, Kiriasis parted ways with the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation after she was told she would be demoted from her position as driver coach to the role of track and performance analyst. On 21 February Fenlator-Victorian and Russell finished 19th in the two-woman Olympic bobsleigh event.
The current team:
|Skeleton Rider||Anthony Watson|
|Skeleton Rider||Anthony Watson|
In popular culture
The 1988 team was the inspiration for the film Cool Runnings (1993). The characters in the film are fictional, although original footage of the crash during a qualifier is used during the film. The film's depiction of the post-crash rescue was changed to show the bobsledders carrying the sled over the line on their shoulders for dramatic effect.
The 1988 team also inspired the reggae parody song "Jamaican Bobsled" by The Rock 'n' Roll Animals, played on the GTR radio station and later released on the CD Yatta, Yatta, Yatta. The song was recorded after Jamaica had announced that they would be entering a bobsledding team into the Olympics, but before the Olympics had actually started; nevertheless, the lyrics accurately predict that the team would crash during one of their runs.
The 2014 team was the inspiration for "The Bobsled Song" written by Sidney Mills from the reggae band Steel Pulse, Jon Notar and Groove Guild. The music video features 8-bit graphics. The song is timed to sync up to the team's Sochi bobsled run. The song was widely shown on television Olympics coverage in the lead-up to the team's run.
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- Transcript: Xmas Story
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