‘Cool Runnings’ on snow? Former DJ hopes to be Jamaica’s first Olympic Alpine skier
A former DJ wants to be the first Jamaican to compete in Alpine skiing at the Olympics.
Benjamin Alexander, a 37-year-old with a British mom and a Jamaican dad, spent the last two winters racing on the lower-level International Ski Federation (FIS) circuit in a bid to qualify for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
“There are a lot of jokes about Jamaican on ice, ‘Cool Runnings’ and all of that fun stuff,” Alexander, who was born and raised an hour north of London, told NBC Sports. “That’s part of how this whole story started, just as a joke.”
Alexander studied electrical engineering at University College London. He booked a one-way ticket for Asia three days after his last exam, tried modeling and ended up in finance, he said on the SkiRacing.com podcast.
He later spent a decade DJing, visiting 30 countries and Burning Man 10 consecutive years, before being first exposed to skiing on Presidents Day weekend 2016.
That’s when he had the opportunity to ski in Whistler, British Columbia, while working a gig he called “a swingers’ party.” Alexander estimated he fell 20 times on his first run and, by the end of that first day, trimmed it to seven falls in one try.
The following year, he skied again at Mammoth Mountain in California. Then he attended the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics as a spectator.
Alexander noticed that Jamaica, a strong Summer Olympic nation thanks to its sprinters, had just three athletes at those Winter Games. None were skiers. All time, one Jamaican has skied at the Olympics -- Errol Kerr in ski cross in 2010.
“I was looking for the next challenge,” Alexander said. “Why not try to reinvent ‘Cool Runnings?’”
He received tips from retired American racer Gordon Gray and mentorship from Dudley Stokes, the driver of Jamaica’s 1988 Olympic four-man bobsled that inspired the 1993 Disney film. His first conversation with Stokes was two hours, and they have spoken on a weekly basis.
Alexander has competed in eight lower-level giant slaloms in the U.S. and Canada, finishing last in all of them. His best result was his most recent, finishing within 14 seconds of the next-to-last skier.
It’s still possible to qualify for the Olympics. Some ski disciplines have looser qualification criteria than other sports.
It most famously resulted in Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless, oiled-up Tongan flag bearer from the Summer Olympics in Rio, picking up cross-country, qualifying for PyeongChang and finishing in 114th place on this date three years ago.
More than 100 men raced the 2018 Olympic giant slalom, including skiers from non-traditional winter sports nations Brazil, South Africa and Cyprus. In the women’s GS, Sabrina Simader became Kenya’s first Olympic Alpine skier.
Alexander believes that his Olympic qualification could encourage future representation in the sport from other Jamaicans.
“I hope that people from ethnic minorities realize that they are not out of place in winter sports,” he said.
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