Feel the rhythm,
Feel the rhyme,
Get on up,
It's bobsled time!
This chant is certainly among the most memorable lines from Cool Runnings, the 1993 movie loosely based on Jamaica's historic 1988 bobsled (also called bobsleigh) team. Media houses across the world began quoting these lines on January 19, when news broke that Jamaica's two-man team of Winston Watt and Marvin Dixon, had potentially qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The team's qualification was confirmed on the 20th, even as fans worldwide utilised online crowd-funding sites to raise the US$80,000 needed for the team to actually make it to Russia.
This will be the bobsled team's fifth appearance at the Winter Olympic Games, following its 1998 debut in Calgary, Canada, where Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Michael White, and Nelson Stokes performance inspired the Cool Runnings movie. The team returned in the 1992 games in Albertville, France, where they again finished poorly. Their first breakthrough came at the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway, where the four-man team of the Stokeses, Watt and Wayne Thomas (who is the coach of the current team) stunned critics by finishing in 14th place, ahead of such heavyweights as the United States, Russia, and two teams from Canada. Jamaica's bobsledders have experienced other moments of glory along the way, such as winning the gold medal at the 2002 World Push Championships in Monaco and setting the Park City bobsled track record and the Olympic record (4.78 seconds) for the push-start segment of the two-man event at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics with Watt (pilot) and Lascelles Brown (brakeman). Brown later migrated to and competed for Canada, winning a number of medals.
Jamaica also had a women's bobsled team, which was initially formed with Lieutenant Antonette Gorman and Captain Judith Blackwood, who were recruited from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). The ladies launched their bobsledding careers by successfully participating in a driving school in Park City, Utah, in October 1998. Portia Morgan and Jennifer Cole were chosen to carry Jamaica's flag for the 2002 games, after women's bobsledding became an official Winter Olympic event in 1999. Unfortunately, the team crashed out during the first women’s world cup race in Winterberg, Germany in 2001 and ended in 26th position. Morgan sustained injuries in the first crash and could not compete in the next world cup race, which ended the team's bid for a place in Salt Lake City.
Find out more about the history and activities of the teams at jamaicabobsleighteam.com and jamaicanbobsled.com. Also, check out the following Gleaner articles for more information on the bobsled team.
Click the image below to view articles and photos from the team's 1988 qualification.