Whether its summer or winter Jamaican athletes seem to create buzzworthy notice of World and Olympic proportions.
Qualifiers in men’s and women’s World Cup Soccer contests, last year, with a 1, 2, 3 sweep in a track and field event at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Sochi, Japan three women took home gold, silver and bronze medals.
This year, men and women from the tropical island qualified to represent in not one, not two but three events during the upcoming 2022 bobsleigh Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
Following the unprecedented achievement, the news went viral trending throughout social media and sports circles.
“It will be fire on ice,” an optimist predicted about the Feb. 4 start of competitions.
Like the buzz that preceded the 1988 Calgary Olympics which first introduced a black, green and gold four-man team of sledders who stole the spotlight in Canada and also inspired a Hollywood production of a “Cool Runnings” dramatic comedy, this year’s historic feat “demonstrates that nothing is impossible.”
Actually, that’s what the island’s Minister of Sports, Olivia Grange said.
“We don’t have no snow’ yet here we are competing against the world’s best on ice,” she added.
During a news conference with team qualifiers she said: “These are the first Olympics in which Jamaica will be represented in three bobsleigh events. In addition to the women’s monobob — a new event at the Olympics — we’ve qualified for the two-man event; and for the first time in 24 years we’re back in the four-man competition.”
Grange lauded the team recently in the capital city of Kingston, even raising hopes of more possibilities for additional qualifications.
There’s the possibility that Jamaica could compete in a fourth bobsleigh event as the two-woman team missed out on a tiebreaker but could still compete as first alternate if one of the qualifying nations withdraws.
“So we keep our fingers crossed.”
Minister Grange described the teams as “inspirational.”
And as if the news did not provide carnival-worthy celebrations, Grange added a fourth reason for national revelry.
“For the first time at the Winter Olympics, Jamaica will have a competitor in Alpine Skiing and I want to congratulate Benjamin Alexander on this wonderful achievement for our country.” Alexander is the second skier to represent Jamaica at the Winter Games following Errol Kerr who finished ninth in the Ski Cross at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
“This generation — and others to come — will look up to you and be inspired by you because of your unlikely presence at the Winter Games representing a tropical country and doing well. You are stories of dedication and commitment filled with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Your hard work has already paid off.”
Minister Grange said “As you go to Beijing, please know that the entire country is cheering you on; and you can continue to count on the support of the government of Jamaica.”
Jamaicans have qualified in men’s sled competitions eight times through consecutive Olympics since 1988 to 2002.
They also qualified to place 14th in Lillehammer in 1994.
The first female Jamaican sled debuted at Pyeong Chang in 2018 with Fenlator-Victorian at the helm. Along with brake woman Audra Segree, the pair will be among 20 teams to race at this year’s Olympics.
Despite continental divides, Jamaicans residing throughout the world have often chosen to represent their Caribbean homeland.
In football, horseback riding, swimming and other Olympic events Jamaicans by birth and birthright have competed under the banner. Alpine skier Alexander was born in England to a Jamaican father. He said his quest to compete under the national flag has nothing to do with going for the gold or ego-boosting, he said his mission is more about inspiring the next generation of nationals on the island that skiing is not elusive to them.
“I’ve been very clear with everyone: there is zero chance that I’ll be anywhere near the medals,” Alexander said. “Zero chance. But what I’m doing is hopefully treading new ground that will help a future Jamaican get there in an upcoming Olympics. And that won’t be next year or the year after. It might be 20 or 30 years from now. If you look at the Jamaican Bobsled team who has been in every Olympics except for one since they started… and now our Jamaican bobsled team is top 30 in the world out of 70 or 80, and is getting medals at world cup events. That’s only possible because of what happened in 1988. I hope in 2044 or something, that someone says, ‘man, that guy in Beijing 2022 is the only reason we have a Jamaican ski team with five athletes competing right now.’”
“I think you gotta define winning right,” Alexander said. “Being the first ever person to do something for a country and help the next generation stand on the shoulders of your hard work is winning of sorts. It’s not a gold medal, but it’s a win for sure.”
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