With the Winter Olympics finally here, Jamaica is showing that they will fight hard to be the best.
Back in mid-January, Jamaica qualified for the four-man bobsled event at this year’s Beijing Winter Olympics.
This marks a historic moment for Jamaica as the nation has not qualified for this event since the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics in Japan, meaning it has been 24 years since the team last competed. To put this into perspective, the majority of Gen Z has yet to live this many years!
In an interview conducted by ABC News, the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team’s pilot Shanwayne Stephens said, “It’s been a lot of struggles over the last four years to obviously achieve what we’ve achieved and we’ve done absolutely everything in our power and everybody’s come together as one team to be able to qualify for the games.”
Jamaica’s history in participating in the Winter Olympics is relatively well known due to the famous 1993 Disney movie, “Cool Runnings.” The movie tells the story of how four Jamacians managed to qualify and compete in the four-man bobsled event for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics in Canada. One of the four men who formed the original Jamaican bobsled team, Chris Strokes, is currently the president of the Jamaican Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, according to Today.
The movie itself was not accurate in portraying the actual story of Jamaica qualifying and competing in the Winter Olympics, as the official Olympic website states. The main story itself was accurate, along with the passion and insanity of the Jamaican team the film conveyed. The website added, “Most of the other things – the song, the egg, the coach, the qualification process, the names of those involved, etc – were not the same.” While the story itself caused the movie to be one of the most successful sports comedies made by Disney, Jamaica has branched out in competing in other winter sports.
Since Jamaica’s first appearance in the Winter Olympics, Jamaica has competed in the four-man bobsled event a total of three times — the last was in the 1998 Winter Olympics. But Jamaica has still competed in the Winter Olympics through other sports as well. Between 1988 and 2018, Jamaica competed in the two-man bobsled event, two-woman bobsled event, men’s individual skeleton event, and men’s ski-cross freestyle skiing event according to Olympian Database.
Now, in 2022, Jamaica is making history once again.
For the first time in Winter Olympic history, Jamaica managed to qualify for four different sports at the same time. Before this, Jamaica only participated in at most two sports. Now, with four areas to show their skills, Jamaica hopes to prove that they can compete with the top players.
One of the new sports that Jamaica will compete in for the first time is Alpine skiing. Thirty-eight-year-old Benjamin Alexander, who was born and raised in Britain according to CBC News, will represent Jamaica. His mixed ethnicity along with inspiration from the movie “Cool Runnings” inspired him to represent Jamaica instead of the UK.
Alexander’s experience with Alpine skiing started back in 2015 as BBC News wrote: “Alexander — a DJ at the Burning Man festival for 10 years who also had an Ibiza residency — had never skied before when he joined his friends on a trip to Canada. He was left astonished by the scenery. Skiing wasn’t on his agenda that time but he knew he ‘wanted to do this.’”
After that experience, he started taking lessons and began competing in small level events. He also was mentored by the pilot of the original Jamaican bobsled team from 1988, Dudley Strokes. In early January 2022, Alexander qualified to compete in the Alpine skiing event in Beijing.
“My message is you can do it. If I can start skiing at 32 and get to the Olympics six years later, then a 40 or 50-year-old can at least have ski lessons and have some fun,” Alexander commented in an interview with The Sun. He also added that he hopes that his story will inspire future Jamaicans to try and compete in Alpine Skiing as he believes that there is hidden talent that is waiting to be revealed.
A brand new event that will make its debut in Beijing is the women’s monobob. This event, which Jamaica is also competing in, offers female athletes a second bobsled event like the men’s four-man or two-man.
Jamaica’s competitor for the women’s monobob event is 36-year-old Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian. She has participated in the past two Winter Olympics under the bobsled category, but this will mark her as the first competitor to represent Jamaica in this new event. Her goal, as she originally told Jamaicans.com in an interview, is “to stand at the top of the hill confident in the work I put in to get there.”
The article also stated that she has had to overcome a lot of obstacles and personal struggles getting to this point: “She recently lost a sister and has had to struggle to balance her sports career with her entrepreneurship. She does not shy away from challenges, however, and has successfully developed a positive approach to her experiences and has achieved a competitive mindset,” (Staff Writer).
For now, Jamaica is facing a battle against the other nations. The bobsled events will begin on Feb. 10th for training before the 14th will begin with the medals all the way until the last day of the Winter Olympics while Alpine skiing has already started training since Feb. 3rd and has begun giving medals on the 6th. You can watch these events on NBC News’ Channel, CNBC and online streaming platforms like Peacock.