Winter Olympics 2022: This Jamaican bobsled workforce desires to transcend the flicks

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It has been 34 years because the four-man Jamaican bobsled workforce made its Olympic debut, enamoring the world with its underdog story and provoking the beloved childhood staple “Cool Runnings.”

The workforce achieved some success within the years that adopted — together with a shock 14th-place end in the course of the 1994 Video games — however has been unable to qualify a four-man workforce since 1998.

That’s, till this 12 months, and on Saturday in Beijing, a brand new foursome from Jamaica will compete and probably win over a complete new technology of followers.

Piloted by Shanwayne Stephens, with Rolando Reid, Ashley Watson and Matthew Wekpe because the push athletes, the workforce has embraced the eye it has already acquired and is grateful for the worldwide help.

“I feel it is all people’s dream to symbolize their nation and we’re right here doing it, residing it and respiration it,” Stephens mentioned earlier this week after competing within the two-man occasion. “We simply hope that we have executed all people proud. I imply, there’s lots of people supporting us. There’s Jamaican, non-Jamaican, all people that loves ‘Cool Runnings’ is supporting us. Simply symbolize Jamaica and luxuriate in it whereas we’re right here. Not all people will get this chance, so we simply need to get pleasure from it.”

And whereas the film took various inventive liberties, the workforce nonetheless appears to like it as a lot as millennials do. Wekpe even carries a plastic egg with him, and options it prominently in his Instagram profile image, in an ode to the film’s fictional brakeman Sanka Coffie. Or, you recognize, the “finest pushcart driver in all of Jamaica.”

However, after all, it is not simply enjoyable and film references for the workforce. Jamaica additionally certified within the two-man occasion, in addition to a sled within the ladies’s monobob, and the nation believes the most effective is but to return.

“Our huge plan for 2026 is to qualify for 4 occasions, two groups per occasion, and to have somebody on the rostrum in 2030,” Chris Stokes, who was a member of the 1988 workforce and is now the president of the Jamaican bobsled federation, said in an interview with The Daily Mirror.

The higher the end result the workforce earns this weekend, the nearer the nation will get to the last word purpose.

So who’re the 4 males on the squad? Really feel the rhythm, really feel the rhyme, it is meet the members of the Jamaican bobsled workforce time.


Shanwayne Stephens

Stephens, 31, already competed this week within the two-man occasion with Nimroy Turgott. They completed in thirtieth place out of 30, however he nonetheless known as his Olympic debut “a second to recollect.”

Stephens was born in Jamaica however moved to England as a toddler. In the present day, he is a member of the UK Royal Air Drive and bought concerned within the sport via the navy. He started as a brakeman earlier than transitioning to the pilot place.

Because it did for a lot of athletes all over the world, the pandemic made coaching a problem for Stephens. Nevertheless, his creativity in the course of the lockdown went viral as he and Turgott pushed around his fiancee’s Mini Cooper to remain competitors prepared. He even had the possibility to inform Queen Elizabeth — sure, Her Royal Majesty herself — about it on a video name (which also found its way around the internet).

“Effectively, I suppose that is one technique to practice,” she mentioned laughing.

Stephens additionally has the cutest fan rooting him on from afar — his toddler daughter Maia, who was totally decked out for his two-man runs.


Rolando Reid

As a toddler, Reid, now 29, at all times dreamed of competing within the Olympics. However bobsled wasn’t precisely what he had in thoughts. Reid was a monitor star and ultimately competed for Morgan State College, even successful a MEAC championship in 2015 as a part of a relay workforce.

However he simply wasn’t fairly on the degree wanted to make the uber-competitive Jamaican monitor workforce. He moved again to the island after graduating from faculty and began working as a highschool economics trainer. According to WUSA9, about three years after returning dwelling, Reid’s brother known as him saying he was concerned with attending an open tryout for the Jamaican bobsled workforce.

Reid provided to assist him put together however hadn’t thought-about doing it himself.

“I mentioned, ‘Alright, I will coach you for the tryouts, get you prepared, get you ready,'” Reid informed WUSA9. “On the day of the tryouts, they mentioned ‘Hey, look, participate, and see what occurs.’ So, I took half, and happily, I used to be the No. 1 chosen candidate.”

He give up his educating job and the remaining, as they are saying, is historical past. Now he is excited to have an opportunity to symbolize his nation, in addition to Morgan State and all traditionally Black schools and universities.


Ashley Watson

Born and raised in England, Watson was a gifted sprinter and soccer participant rising up and initially bought concerned with bobsled via Nice Britain’s program. But it surely was the chance to symbolize his father’s dwelling nation, Jamaica, that in the end bought him to get critical pursuing the game and change to the Jamaican federation.

“Representing Jamaica is a large honor,” he told the Peterborough Telegraph. “This journey is for my household’s heritage and my late grandmother and grandfather who’ve each handed inside the final decade. I am hoping I can encourage folks from Jamaica and the encircling islands in addition to British-born Jamaicans to indicate something is feasible with onerous work.”

Watson, 28, just lately accomplished his grasp’s diploma in physiotherapy at Sheffield Hallam College in England and has balanced his research along with his coaching — together with flying dwelling between races in December to complete his educational necessities for the diploma — in addition to operating his personal sports activities remedy enterprise.

However even with a lot happening, making the Jamaican Olympic workforce was his major purpose. After being chosen in January, he took to social media to share what it meant.

“A childhood dream has come a actuality,” Watson wrote on Instagram. “I gave up on this dream a couple of years again though I knew the elite athlete in me hasn’t died but and had unfinished enterprise. Blood, sweat and tears went into this and it has paid off! Greatest day of my sporting profession!”


Matthew Wekpe

Whereas a lot of his bobsled friends had late begins within the sport, Wekpe did not even get right into a bobsled till 2020. That’s not a typo.

Actually, Wekpe, 32, was already representing Jamaica as a member of the nationwide rugby workforce and wasn’t trying to change sports activities. Nevertheless, in the course of the pandemic, the Jamaican federation was desperately looking for athletes based mostly in England who may practice with Stephens as his ordinary brakeman was in Jamaica and unable to journey as a consequence of restrictions.

“I used to be like, ‘Hey, why not? I will give it a go’,” Wekpe told World Rugby. “We had a little bit trial the place a couple of of us tried out and after that I used to be within the workforce and three or 4 weeks later, I am actually in a World Cup race. You understand, I might by no means seen a bobsleigh earlier than!”

He is been with the workforce since.

As evidenced by his plastic egg, Wekpe was fast to understand the “Cool Runnings” connection, however mentioned his purpose was to make much more historical past for his nation.

“We needed an enduring legacy to say that we’re not simply ‘Cool Runnings’, you recognize, we’re not simply that film,” he mentioned in the identical interview. “We’re a workforce that’s there to compete and we’re there to be critical.”



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