What were the odds on a four-man Jamaican bobsleigh team making the Winter Olympics?
About as long as me, Irving Blitzer, becoming the next President of the United States!
I told them there were too many problems.
Snow: they didn't have any.
Time: they didn't have any. It was three months to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
And me: they didn't have me.
I was making my living as a bookie in Jamaica and after being caught cheating in the bobsleigh I just didn’t want to do it, coach it, or be around anyone who does.
The problem is that one of these crazy guys was the son of my old friend Ben Bannock, Derice. So, I felt I just had to help them. I owed Ben that much.
Going to the Winter Olympics takes cold, hard cash, though, and the Jamaican Olympic Committee won’t give us the $20,000 we need. They think we’ll embarrass the nation.
So, our guys had taken to doing some, er, unusual things to raise funds – arm wrestling, singing on the street, and one of them selling their car.
They trained without ice or a track.
They REALLY wanted to get to the Olympics!
By some miracle, they got there, but they were facing teams who had snow, time, and great coaches. They didn’t even have a bobsleigh. It was going to be so tough.
My old team mate Roger gave us one of their old sleds.
When I got them on the ice for the first time, they seemed a little nervous…so I gave them a little push!
The first day, they finished last, and it soon became clear that the Jamaican team couldn’t just copy what the other teams, like the Swiss, were doing.
They had to do it THEIR way.
That’s why they called their sled Cool Runnings.
As Derice said: "Cool Runnings means Peace Be The Journey."
My heart was in my mouth when, in the final race, one of the sled’s blades came off and it crashed. Bones don’t break in a sled crash, they shatter.
Those guys were not just OK, they picked up the sled and ran it over the line to huge applause from the crowd.
When they start something, those four guys always want to finish it.
Not only would they go home as Jamaican heroes, but they were also back in the Albertville games in 1992, and the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, where they beat the USA, Russia, Australia and France, stunning the sporting world and finishing 14th.
Derice and his team had transformed themselves from sprinters to sliders, from a group of four Jamaican guys into a team that could take on the world.
Along the way, they tracked their performance and tweaked their technique with the help of expert coaches.
Now that’s a story about determination overcoming huge obstacles!
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