Wed | Aug 5, 2020

Ja bobsledder dies from coronavirus

Published:Wednesday | April 15, 2020 | 12:25 AMAkino Ming/Staff Reporter

Christian Stokes, president of the Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, remembers Sam Clayton Jr, one of the first Jamaican bobsledders, as a fearless man whose bravery helped to start the island’s participation in the event at the Winter Olympic Games. Clayton died from coronavirus last month in the United States.

The New York Times reported that Clayton Jr died of complications of COVID-19, a virus that has killed more than 70 Jamaicans in the United States.

“He was one of the very first recruits. He was recruited in October of 1987. He travelled with the team to Europe and also to Lake Placid. He was working with the railroad when he was recruited,” Chris Stokes said. “He had the courage to break the mould. He was brave to be among one of the first two Jamaicans to ever sit in a bobsleigh. Dudley Stokes Jr and Clayton were the first pilots, and that says something about the man and the courage that he had.”

Clayton Jr didn’t make the cut to represent the country at the 1988 Winter Olympics Games, where the Jamaican team members were fan favourites at the Games and became the inspiration for the 1993 motion picture Cool Runnings.

“He was not at the Olympics but he was a part of the build-up to the Olympics. He was instrumental in really holding the team together in the early days,” Stokes said. “Up to now, we always make jokes about his first time down the run in Austria.

“He came out one of the corners back ways and he had to come to terms with the fact that it was not a normal way to go down the track, but other pilots who had more experience had the same problem, but he was very brave and very dedicated.”

After he retired from the sport, Clayton Jr became famous for his contributions to the music world as a producer and engineer for reggae music.

He is survived by his wife Annie, a daughter, three sons and three grandchildren.

akino.ming@gleanerjm.com