They did not do it because they thought it would be funny. Four members of the Jamaica Defense Force did it as a statement of pride and determination.
Dudley Stokes, Devon Harris, Michael White and Caswell Allen traveled from their tropical island to snowy Canada hoping to make it into the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Miraculously, they qualified.
When Caswell Allen was injured 3 days prior to the start of the Olympics, he was replaced by Chris Stokes, who was only in Canada to support his brother Dudley.
Smaller than the state of Connecticut, Jamaica is not a wealthy island. The men had to appeal to other teams for basic equipment in order to compete. But as the Olympics are forever a celebration of global cooperation, the other nations were happy to loan them what they needed.
When the United States ice hockey team was eliminated, American TV stations needed to fill airtime and chose to focus on the Jamaican bobsled team.
“Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, its bobsled time! Cool runnings!”
The first run ended poorly when Dudley Stokes jumped into the bobsled and the push-bar broke, resulting in the Jamaican team coming in third from last.
The team ranked next-to-last on their second run due to White remaining nearly upright through the first corner as he struggled to crouch down properly in his seat.
After a blistering fast start on their third run, the Jamaican bobsled careened into the wall of the track and flipped over on top of the team at 85 miles per hour. Bruised and battered, the four men climbed out, walked with the bobsled to the end of the track, then picked it up and carried it off.
The crowd went wild.
Did the Jamaican team call it quits? No, they did not.
The four qualified again for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. The following year, Disney released Cool Runnings, a comedy film inspired by the team’s experience in the 1988 Games.
In the 1994 Olympics* in Lillehammer, Norway, the four Jamaicans finished ahead of the United States, Russia, Italy, France and Australia.
At the 2000 World Push in Monaco the Jamaican team won the gold medal.
You will never become good at something unless you are willing to be bad at first. But if you stay with it, things will be fine in the end.
If things aren’t fine, it’s not the end.
Roy H. Williams
*In case you were wondering why we had Winter Olympics in 1992 and again just 2 years later in 1994, it was because the International Olympic Commission decided to separate the Summer and Winter Games and place them in alternating even-numbered years. 1994 was the year that decision was implemented.
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