'Suffer and struggle' No pain, no gain for Jamaica's bobsleigh queens

Friday, February 23, 2018

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AFP) — Billed as Cool Runnings reloaded, Jamaica's women's bobsleigh team made history for the tropical island with a first Olympic appearance, but will leave with plenty to ponder.

Thirty years after a Jamaican men's 'bob' team turned heads at the Calgary Games, pilot Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and brakewoman Carrie Russell finished 19th of 20 teams in Pyeongchang — giving them food for thought for Beijing in 2022.

Jamaican Coach Dudley Stokes, one of the members of the Calgary team immortalised by the Hollywood hit movie, had warned there would be pain along the way for the Caribbean islanders, and so it transpired.

“He told us that we would come to the Olympics to suffer and struggle,” grinned Fenlator-Victorian, who fought a snapped brake cable on the final run.

“But at the end of the day he just wanted us to try and win the race. That's what we did every run — act like we were about to win that gold medal, regardless of what the times said.”

However, Jamaica's Cool Runnings rerun needed a hasty script rewrite after their German coach, who claimed to own their only sled, resigned six days before the event started.

When former gold medallist Sandra Kiriasis threatened to confiscate the sled unless the Jamaican federation paid for it, it plunged their Olympic debut into chaos — until beer maker Red Stripe offered to buy it.

“I have to give a lot of credit to our staff for taking the brunt of that and trying to keep us secluded from it,” said Fenlator-Victorian of the row.

“We all said this isn't going to tear us down, this isn't going to distract us. We came here to do a job and that's what we're going to focus on, is be athletes,” she added.

“Regardless of the issue, not having a coach, mechanical trouble, we're going to hold our heads high and keep building.”

But despite a rocky Olympic debut, the sled — christened “Mr Cool Bolt”, after Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt and the film that put Jamaican sledding on the map — made it to the start line.

And the Caribbean nation better known for its pristine beaches, crystal blue sea and sunshine, once again captured the imagination of fans around the world.

“It wasn't necessarily the result we were looking for,” admitted Fenlator-Victorian.

“But we're humbled and honoured to be compared to those guys who fought so hard to represent Jamaica.

“We're pretty perseverant and resilient for a small island and we hope more of our islanders come out for winter sports.”

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