Jamaica, you have a bobsled team for the Beijing Olympics! (and an Alpine skier)
Jamaica will have a four-man bobsled team at the Olympics for the first time in 24 years, conjuring memories of “Cool Runnings.”
Jamaica grabbed the final spot in the 28-sled field in qualification for the Beijing Games, based on international results this season.
Jamaica qualified in three Olympic bobsled events for the first time, also earning the last spot in two-man and a place in the new Olympic event of women’s monobob. It missed a two-woman spot on a tiebreaker but can get in as first alternate if one qualified nation gives up a spot.
Jamaica hasn’t announced its Olympic roster yet, but Shanwayne Stephens is expected to pilot the four-man sled. Rolando Reid, Ashley Watson and Matthew Wekpe have been push athletes in all of Stephens’ four-man races this season, with a top finish of fifth on the lower-level North American Cup.
In 2020, Stephens, a lance corporal in the Royal Air Force, made headlines in Great Britain for unusual off-ice training during the coronavirus pandemic: pushing a Mini Cooper in Peterborough. He later mentioned it to Queen Elizabeth II on a video chat.
“Well I suppose that’s one way to train,” the queen said with a laugh.
Beijing marks the first Winter Games since the death of the first Jamaican bobsled driver, Sam Clayton.
Jamaica bobsled rose to fame with its Olympic debut at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, its four-man team that failed to finish inspiring the 1993 Disney film, “Cool Runnings.” At least one Jamaican men’s sled competed in every Olympics from 1988 through 2002, then again in 2014, with a best finish of 14th.
But the recent sleds were in the two-man event.
The last time Jamaica had a four-man sled was at the 1998 Nagano Games. That was also the last time the Olympic team had a link to the famed 1998 quartet -- brothers Chris and Dudley Stokes. Chris is now the president of Jamaica’s bobsled federation.
A Jamaican women’s sled debuted at the Olympics in 2018, driven by 2014 U.S. Olympian Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, whose father is Jamaican. A Jamaican men’s sled missed qualifying for PyeongChang by one spot in world rankings.
Jamaica will also have a skier at the Winter Olympics for the second time in history, and for the first time in Alpine skiing.
Benjamin Alexander, a former DJ raised in Great Britain, qualified a quota spot for the nation in giant slalom. More on Alexander’s personal story here.
Other notable qualifiers from non-traditional winter sports nations (stats via Olympedia.org, pending accepting the quota spots):
- American Samoa: men’s skeleton, the second time the nation will be at a Winter Olympics
- Brazil: first moguls skier ever
- Ecuador: first female Winter Olympian, an Alpine skier
- Haiti: first Winter Olympian, at least a male Alpine skier
- Kenya: Sabrina Simader qualifying a quota spot for a second consecutive Olympics after becoming Kenya’s first female Winter Olympian
- Mexico: first figure skater since 1992
- Nigeria: a male cross-country skier, its first skier ever
- Puerto Rico: women’s skeleton, its first female Winter Olympian in 34 years
- Saudi Arabia: first Winter Olympian, at least a male Alpine skier
- Trinidad and Tobago: two-man bobsled, first Winter Olympians since 2002
NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.
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