Jamaica Olympic Association says bobsled team qualifies for Olympics
Jamaica’s Olympic Association said it has qualified a two-man bobsled for Sochi, which would mark the island nation’s first Winter Olympics bobsled berth since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
The International Bobsled Federation (FIBT) said it emailed National Olympic Committees that earned Olympic berths on Monday. The Jamaica Olympic Association said it received an email from FIBT saying that it had earned an Olympic two-man bobsled berth.
The sled is set to be driven by Winston Watts, 47, who competed in bobsled under the name Winston Watt at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 Olympics.
Watts came out of retirement in 2010 for one more shot at the Olympics.
“I’m very excited,” Watts said in a phone interview last week. “I knew if I got back in the sport, get a good brakeman and have the funding, we can still create history. That’s one of the things why I decided to come back.”
He attributed the name change to a previous passport mishap. Watts said last week his push athlete will be either Marvin Dixon or Wayne Blackwood, who would be first-time Olympians.
How did Watts qualify for Sochi? By competing exclusively in the lower-level North American Cup across three tracks this season -- Calgary, Alberta; Park City, Utah; and Lake Placid, N.Y., and achieving his two best results in his final events two weeks ago (fifth and seventh).
A complicated ranking system sorted out after results in a World Cup race in Igls, Austria, on Saturday. Watts would have been one of the final sleds to get into the Olympics, and it was unclear whether he had qualified based on FIBT criteria.
Later Saturday, the Sochi 2014 Twitter account tweeted that Jamaica had qualified an Olympic two-man bobsled. The news spread, and then the tweet was deleted. Sochi organizers do not determine which bobsleds make up the Olympic field. FIBT does, and the organization said Friday it would not announce the Olympic field until Monday.
Watts said Saturday he’s trying to raise as much as $80,000 to get to Sochi, according to The Associated Press. Watts said earlier last week that regardless of finances, he expects to be able to make it to Sochi.
Jamaica bobsled gained widespread American fame with the 1993 Disney film “Cool Runnings,” which depicted the first Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team from the 1988 Calgary Olympics.
In 1994, Watts and the four-man bobsled team beat both U.S. sleds and finished 14th in Lillehammer, Norway.
Watts now resides in Utah, though he spent the better part of last week staying at a friend’s house near John F. Kennedy Airport in New York because he said he could not afford an airplane ticket to Salt Lake City.