UPDATED: Cooler Runnings - Female bobsledders qualify for Winter Olympics
Thirty years after Jamaica's men's bobsled team qualified for its first winter Olympics, their female counterparts have replicated the achievement ahead of next month's Winter Olympiad in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The team of brakemen Carrie Russell, Audra Segree, and pilot Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian got the job done in St Moritz, Switzerland, at the weekend to achieve another historic Jamaican sporting feat.
In the final qualifying race at the Cresta Run track, Jamaica finished 13th, just ahead of Romania, who were hot on their heels for most of the qualification. It was confirmed yesterday that the result left Jamaica in an automatic top-20 spot and a clear qualification position
"Jamaica was offered a quota allocation spot for women's bobsleigh, which we have gladly accepted," Chris Stokes, president of the Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, told The Gleaner.
However, their qualification was nothing short of miraculous, as a poor start left them with a lot of work to do. But through proper planning and organisation, they regrouped to realise their dream.
"They had a difficult time in Germany (first race this year). We did not get a good result. But we made adjustments and came back and had a very strong performance in San Moritz, which set us up.
"But our first four races were not so good. Had we started the season like we finished it, we would have been in a stronger position. But the first six races, we did not get the results we thought we could and it caused some anxiety.
"But we made changes in time so the races in Winterberg, Igls, Altenberg and San Moritz rescued the qualification campaign. So despite the poor start, we got it together, came back strong, and qualified. But based on the first six races, we shouldn't have qualified. But we reorganised and put ourselves in a very strong position and got in at the wire," he said.
To qualify, the Jamaicans overcame some of the world's best and Stokes thought the ladies' performance was world class. Germany and Canada were allocated three sled places. USA, Austria, Russia and Belgium got two sleds and Switzerland, Great Britain and Jamaica one each.
"So they are very happy. This is a very elite level, and they have done exceptionally well. To be there, we had to beat the best," Stokes said.
The team has one more event before moving into a training camp in Germany, from where they will head to Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the games.
"This is the 30th anniversary of the first team to qualify in 1988, and we are glad to have a women's team qualify, and we expect them to do well," Stokes said.
Jamaica has now qualified for 11 Winter Olympic Games; six times with a two-man team, and four times with a four-man team. The first qualified in 1988 and followed that up with qualification in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2014. Both the two-man and four-man teams qualified for the first four tournaments, but only the two man team qualified on the last three occasions.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jamaica's men's bobsled team first qualified for the Winter Olympics 30 years ago.)