Winter Olympics 2022: Jamaica’s Bobsleigh Team Bids to Make History

Jamaica made its debut at the 1988 Games in Calgary, Canada, having had very little practice on a bobsled track prior to the event
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A member of the Jamaican bobsleigh team says he hopes they can record the nation’s highest ever placing at a Winter Olympics.

Sheffield Hallam University student Ashley Watson is part of the four-man bobsleigh team competing in Beijing.

For the first time in 24 years a four-man crew will represent the nation, echoing the exploits of the 1988 team who inspired the film Cool Runnings.

Mr Watson said the team’s aim was to set records.

Jamaica’s debut was at the 1988 Games in Calgary, Canada.

The team, consisting of Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Michael White, and Nelson Stokes, crashed out of the event and carried their sled over the finish line, but captured the hearts of fans all over the world.

The 1993 film Cool Runnings was loosely based on their story.

Jamaica’s four-man bobsleigh team last qualified for the Winter Olympics held in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, finishing in 21st.

The team recorded its best placing of 14th at the Games in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994.

“This would be a good benchmark to beat to become the best team in Jamaican history,” Mr Watson said, adding “there is no point entering a competition without thinking you can get a medal”.

Team training at facility at University of Bath
The team – dubbed the “hottest thing on ice” – fine-tuned the all-important start on a track at the University of Bath

Mr Watson, 28, who has recently completed his master’s degree in physiotherapy, acknowledged there would be huge interest from across the globe given the team’s popularity, but said he “didn’t feel too pressured” as the team had trained hard.

He said they had been particularly practising the all-important start at a facility at the University of Bath.

The current team – also made up of Matthew Wekpe, Nimroy Turgott and L/Cpl Shanwayne Stephens, who is a gunner based at RAF Northolt, west London – have done training ahead of the Games in the UK.

“I am very excited to race, the track is very impressive and I think we can do well,” Mr Watson added.

(L-R) Ashley Watson, Matthew Wekpe, Nimroy Turgott and Shanwayne Stephens
The present team includes (L-R) Ashley Watson, Matthew Wekpe, Nimroy Turgott and Shanwayne Stephens

He said he hoped the team could also play its part in “inspiring the next generation of Jamaican bobsleigh athletes”.

The four-man bobsleigh event begins on Saturday 19 February.

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