Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jamaica Back on World Bobsled Run Team Has Rhythm, Rhyme, Sunshine for Olympics after 12-Year Absence; Eager to Show It's Not a Novelty Act

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jamaica Back on World Bobsled Run Team Has Rhythm, Rhyme, Sunshine for Olympics after 12-Year Absence; Eager to Show It's Not a Novelty Act

Article excerpt

SOCHI, Russia -- The Jamaican bobsled team had a rough ride - even before hitting the icy track at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

When two-man bobsled team members Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon arrived at Sochi's airport, they discovered that their bobsled's blades, their sliding suits and helmets didn't arrive with them.

Despite the gear mishap - the stuff arrived on Thursday - and a missed connecting flight from Moscow to Sochi, it's still all good for the funkiest and perhaps most famous bobsled team on Earth.

The team is just happy to be in Sochi and thrilled that Jamaica's back at the Winter Games after a 12-year absence.

And Watts is beaming nonstop. At age 46 he's a grand old man of bobsledding, coming out of retirement to revive a dormant team and compete in Sochi.

"I'm a 46-year-old guy sitting in a 25-year-old body," he said, laughing. "There are no words to explain how I feel being back in the Olympics. It's phenomenal, it's unreal, it's like a dream."

Jamaica made its improbable Olympics debut at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary with a sled built with borrowed parts from other teams, a feel-good story that was the basis for the 1993 Disney film "Cool Runnings."

Years later, JamBob isn't the best bobsled team in the world, but it's perhaps one of the most influential. The team's exploits have inspired other warm-weather countries to enter the Winter Olympics and spawned a generation of people - many of them minorities - who have gravitated to bobsledding and other winter sports.

In Friday's Opening Ceremony, the Sochi crowd gave the small Jamaica delegation one of the loudest ovations of the night as it entered the stadium. Germany's Olympic TV broadcast zoomed to the pair and also mentioned the movie.

"The people love us like crazy," Watts said. "This movie, 'Cool Runnings,' really opened the way for a lot of different nation's athletes. Every time they see the Jamaica bobsled team, they always sharing with us: 'Hey, I just saw the 'Cool Runnings' movie.' It's something the rest of the world, they cannot stop talk[ing] about."

Jazmine Fenlator, one of five women of color of the U.S. women's bobsled team, said "Cool Runnings" helped steer her towards bobsledding. She watched it as a child and traded lines from the movie with her father, who's Jamaican.

"That movie was one of my favorite movies growing up," said Fenlator, a bobsled pilot who's become fast friends with Watts. "Winston Watts is a great athlete who's overcome so much coming from a small nation, living in the United States, competing in a huge sport like bobsled, trying to revamp his nation's bobsled team, and providing diversity in winter sport."

Jamaica appears intent on being a winter sports staple. Watts' goal is to keep the bobsled team's legacy alive. And Jamaica joined the International Ice Hockey Federation in 2012 with the goal of competing in the Winter Olympics in the near future. …

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