When Jamaica’s four-man bobsled team made its Olympic debut in 1988, the story inspired the much-loved Disney film ‘Cool Runnings’ – and Jamaica’s unlikely underdogs helped acquaint the masses with this unique sport.
And on Saturday, for the first time since the 1998 Winter Games, Jamaica has a four-man team at the Olympics. Their sled will be piloted by Shanwayne Stephens, with Rolando Reid, Ashley Watson and Matthew Wekpe as push athletes.
“I think it’s everyone’s dream to represent their country, and we’re here to do it, live it and breathe it,” Stephens said earlier this week after competing in the bobsleigh event at of them.
Jamaica is one of 28 teams competing in Saturday’s four-man bobsleigh competition. The best teams will qualify for the final on Sunday.
The competition could be the big win for Jamaica, who are seeded last after the first two legs on Saturday. Germany is in the lead, with first and second place teams.
In some ways, the Jamaican crew leans into the film’s narrative. For one, Wekpe carries a plastic egg with him, much like the film’s fictional brakeman, Sanka Coffie.
But they also want to tell their own story. In fact, the team recorded a song to spread its message: “We are not just a movie”, begin the lyrics.
In one interview on the site of the Olympic GamesStephens said: “We want to show that we are fierce competitors and that we are here to perform very well at the Games.
Reid is from Jamaica and ran at Morgan State University, a historically black university in Maryland. His bobsleigh journey began in 2019, after his brother showed interest in the sport.
To help prepare for the Games, Reid returned to his alma mater to train with the track team. In an interview with The Baltimore Sunthe former track and field star said he only started learning to run on ice in September.
Reid isn’t the only teammate new to the sport. Wekpe, who represented Jamaica in the international rugby scenestarted training with the bobsled team just a year ago amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Stephens, the pilot, and Watson, one of the pushers, bring the most experience to the Jamaican team. Watson, who hails from Peterborough, England, started luge in 2013 but took a break before returning to the sport recently. Stephens, who was born in Jamaica but raised in Britain, started tobogganing in 2015 after joining the Royal Air Force.
Stephens made headlines at the start of the pandemic when it was revealed that his training program during the lockout involved pushing her fiancé’s car around Peterborough. (Recounting his diet to Queen Elizabeth II during a video call, Stephens drew a laugh from Her Majesty, who added: “Well, I guess that’s a way of training.”)
The historical significance of Jamaican bobsled history in 2022 does not end there. The country also has a team in the two-man bobsleigh event and a female athlete in the monobob competition, an individual luge event that made its Olympic debut, making it the first time the country has qualified for three bobsleigh events in a single edition of the Olympic Games.