Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Dalton Myers | Fire on ice - Bobsled team presents great opportunities

Published:Saturday | January 27, 2018 | 12:44 AMDalton Myers
Jamaica's bobsled team of Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian (front) and Carrie Russell at the start of their run at the Cresta Run in St Moritz, Switzerland, recently. The performance qualified Jamaica for next month's Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongyang, South Korea.

Jamaica’s women Bobsleigh qualification for the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang South Korea is very significant. It’s a feat that should continue to be highlighted both locally and internationally. This is historical, and symbolic, as it also coincides with the 30-year anniversary of our now famed 1988 male team. 

Jamaica’s males first competed in Bobsleigh in the 1988 Winter Olympics in both the four-man and two-man team events. Since then, we have been represented in six Olympics for the two-man team, and four editions of the Games for the four-man team. Jamaica have never before qualified for a women’s Bobsleigh team event, which makes this year even more special so I salute the team of pilot Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and brakemen Carrie Russell and Audra Segree. What they have accomplished has seen sport once again give hope at a difficult time in this country.

Russell, who was recruited in 2016 in preparation for the Winter Games, has won gold for Jamaica in the 4x100 metre relay at the 2013 IAAF World Championships, as well as in the 100 metres at the 2011 World University Games. Segree joined the Jamaica Bobsleigh programme around 2014, working with other athletes such as young Natalia Stokes. Fenlator-Victorian represented the USA at the Sochi Olympics. That balance of speed, experience and agility was crucial for the team’s qualification.

For Bobsleigh Olympics qualification, a national team must compete in at least five races over three different racing tracks in a two-year span. These races which can include the North American Cup, the European Cup, and the World Cup (with the latter having the most points on offer) help teams to qualify based on overall points ranking.

Hard work paid off

Jamaica’s qualification is the result of hard work and dedication from the Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation led by Nelson ‘Chris’ Stokes. Stokes and his team have been planning, and working assiduously to ensure that Russell, Fenlator-Victorian and Segree were fully aware of and committed to the task. 

I am fully aware that the competition won’t be easy for them. It has never been. In fact, they still need help in getting a more technologically advanced sled to be up there with the best in the world. Just a few years ago, the USA worked with BMW on a prototype sled for aerodynamics and durability. Before them, European teams got redesigned sleds with help from race car developers like Ferrari and McLaren. The Japanese-based Formula One team also supported their sledders.

While we do not have the facilities like New York’s Lake Placid, Vancouver’s Calgary, or Lillehammer in Norway; we must now seize the opportunity that has been presented. Obviously, we do not have snow but we can always be the “hottest thing on ice”. There are many potential spin-offs from this achievement.

It provides opportunities for other athletes to compete in Bobsleigh and develop the belief that they too can participate at the highest level. Yes, we competed in previous editions of the Winter Games; however this is as historic as the 1988 team, the 2018 qualification of our Rugby team for that World Cup, and our Reggae Boyz qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. 

Additionally, we can leverage this success to attract more partners for the sport, including local and international sponsors and donors to finance the Bobsleigh programme.  

Furthermore, the Jamaica government should buy into our winter programme, by helping the Bobsleigh Federation to garner more financial support as well as establish clinics, workshops and training programmes for coaches and athletes as well as accessing equipment (duty free concessions etc).

Finally, we have been talking sport tourism for a while, so here comes another opportunity, not to host a winter event but rather to attract Bobsleigh athletes from across the world to use of our sprint programme for off-season training with our finest coaches. As part of their preparation, the Jamaica’s ladies spent months in the island doing preseason training exercises.  

Moments like these are here for us to cherish, but significantly, they are also here for us to learn from the experience and work towards replicating the success. I know the ladies will do well and I wish them all the best at the 2018 Games. 

- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant,  administrator and lecturer. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com