Cool Runnings 2? Jamaican bobsled team headed to Olympics

Olympics

A woman looks at her phone as she passes an Olympic logo inside the main media center for the Beijing Winter Olympics Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(NewsNation Now) — Saying it will be “fire on ice,” Team Jamaica tweeted Monday that their four-man bobsled team secured a spot at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

It’s the first time Team Jamaica has qualified in three Olympic bobsled events: four-man, two-man and women’s monobob. It’s also the first time in 24 years that a four-man bobsled team from Jamaica will be at the Winter Olympics.

Jamaica is set to compete against Germany, Canada, Austria, the United States and Switzerland, according to Olympics.com.

Piloting Jamaica’s four-man bobsled is Shanwayne Stephens, who will ride with Rolando Reid, Ashley Watson and Matthew Wekpe as push athletes.  Olympics.com said U.S.-Jamaican monobob athlete Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian is set to be in Beijing, as well.

“We made it,” Stephens wrote on Twitter. “@Beijing2022 here we come.”

Another Jamaican athlete, Benjamin Alexander, made history this week, too, as the first person in the country to qualify for the Winter Olympics in alpine skiing.

As reported by Reuters, it took a lot of perseverance for Alexander to get to this point.

He faced limited financing, was without a full-time coach, and couldn’t train consistently because of COVID-19. At times, Alexander said, qualifying for the Olympics felt like a “fool’s errand” as he fought against border closures and the cancellations of events and competitions.

“I just had to make do with what I had. I think getting to the Olympics and the struggle of getting to the Olympics is about succeeding in the face of adversity. And I have a lot of that,” Alexander told Reuters from Zurich on Sunday.

After being frustrated from “borrowing and stealing” little tidbits of information from multiple coaches, Alexander was able to speak to Dudley Stokes, the pilot of the 1988 Jamaican Bobsleigh team that inspired the movie “Cool Runnings.”

“And Dudley said to me, ‘Listen Benji, you’re smart enough to be able to take … the best of what everyone’s offering and leave the rest. And maybe for someone like you, that’s a better situation than having one intermediate or poor coach,'” Alexander said.

The 38-year-old isn’t setting any targets, Reuters reported, but said he is hoping this can be a big step for Team Jamaica.

“My story is about inspiring the next generation of Jamaicans to believe that they could do something like this to get out there and try winter sports so that eventually we can bring back a medal to Jamaica,” Alexander told Reuters.

Alexander expects to arrive in Beijing around Feb. 3 before competing on the 13th.

Although it has been a while since Jamaica’s had a four-man bobsled team qualify, the country had at least one men’s sled at eight straight Olympics games from 1988 to 2002. While Jamaica was eligible for Sochi 2014, according to Olympics.com, they missed qualifying for PyeongChang 2018 by one spot iin the world rankings.

This year’s Winter Olympics are set for Feb.4 through Feb.20.

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