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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Petr David Josek
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Jamaica's bobsleigh crew honoured to carry on 'Cool Runnings' legacy at Winter Olympics
Jamaica will have a four-man crew racing at the Winter Olympics for the first time since 1988.

JAMAICA’S BOBSLEIGH CREW at the Beijing Olympics say it’s an honour to carry on the legacy of the pioneers who represented the Caribbean island at the 1988 Games as told in the movie “Cool Runnings”.

The story of how the original four-man Jamaican crew defied the odds to race at the Calgary Games was immortalised by the 1993 film.

For the first time since the 1988 Games, Jamaica will have a four-man crew racing at the Winter Olympics, piloted by Shanwayne Stephens.

First though, Jamaica are taking part in the two-man bob.

“They inspired us and we will inspire the next generation,” said brakeman Ashley Watson after he and Stephens finished in a best position of 24th in training Thursday.

Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian will also race in the women’s monobob, a sport which makes its Olympic debut on Sunday.

Hailing from the tropical West Indies, the Jamaicans are underdogs on the World Cup circuit.

Stephens admits they are especially under-prepared to race at the Olympic facility in Yanqing, north of Beijing.

“That was only our fifth and sixth time on the track as we missed the test event in October,” he explained.

“We have another four training runs, then we go into a race – it’s just one of the challenges of being a smaller nation.

“We don’t have the funding to travel out to do the test event, a full season and come to the Games.”

The 31-year-old is based in Peterborough in England after his family moved there from Jamaica in 2002.

When the Covid pandemic hit Europe in 2020, Stephens reacted to the closing of gyms by lifting home-made concrete weights and pushing his girlfriend’s Mini around a car park.

“We can say everything we did helped us qualify for the Games. If we’d sat back, we probably wouldn’t have made it, so we can be pride of ourselves,” he added.

“We’re such a young crew. To be able to qualify for the Games having only met for the first time in September is an absolutely fantastic achievement.”

As a sniper in Britain’s Royal Air Force, he says the “accuracy, precision and organisation” he learned in his day job helps pilot Jamaica’s bob.

“The guys will tell you I am a bit obsessive sometimes, wanting certain things done a certain way,” he laughs.

The Jamaicans accept their chances of getting near the medals are low.

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Stephens says “four solid runs would be a great stepping-stone moving forward” when the two-man heats begin Monday and the four-man races start the following weekend.

The Jamaicans bring a sense of fun to the Winter Games, as witnessed when Stephens’ team danced their way into the opening ceremony.

“We try to drag people in when we have dance-offs,” he said.

Their playful nature wins fans. We have had messages from all over the world, not just Jamaica,” he added.

“People say they will cheer for us, as well as their own countries.

“The love is real and we can’t wait to do Jamaica — and every ‘Cool Runnings’ fan — proud.”

 – © AFP 2022

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