Sun | Sep 27, 2020

An uphill task - Benjamin Alexander seeking historic Winter Olympics skiing berth for Jamaica

Published:Saturday | August 15, 2020 | 12:05 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
British-born Jamaican skier Benjamin Alexander in action on a mountain range.
British-born Jamaican skier Benjamin Alexander in action on a mountain range.

Although British-born, skier Benjamin Alexander is trying to become the first Jamaican alpine skier to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games.

Alexander, who qualifies to represent Jamaica through his father, lives in England and spend most of his life as a disc jockey (DJ). But unlike most Olympians or Olympic aspirants, he did not start skiing seriously until about five years ago, at age 32. Since then, he has been hooked on the sport.

“I am very fanatical about the sport and with the improvements I have made, I feel very certain to qualify,” Alexander told The Gleaner. “So unless something more than COVID-19 comes along, I am very confident of making the Olympics.”

Alexander, who is still without a coach, has reduced his FIS (International Ski Federation) points from 1,000 to 560 in just six races, bringing him closer to the qualifying mark of 160 points. With the progress he has made in such a short space of time, he is positive that by early 2021 he will secure his place at the Games in Beijing, China.

“I was lucky when I started out to get to the Olympics,” he said. “I found coaches online and they gave me a master plan. They said the 2019 season would be about getting points and I wanted to do 10 races. Now I aiming for about two dozen races and I feel that by the end of the first quarter of next year I can qualify, so by the next 12 races from now.

“I have applied myself full-heartedly, even in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where I have been staying, I have outperformed what they thought I would. When the pandemic started, a lot of people stopped training, but I pivoted and started training harder. So even if it’s a weird season, I am confident making the Olympics,” he added.

Alexander, who arrived in the island last week, has been to more than 30 countries as a professional DJ. However, it is the first time he is visiting Jamaica and he wants to use the time to explore and know more about this part of his heritage.

“My father is from Sav (Savanna-la-Mar), Westmoreland,” he said. “I always had dual identity but never had the opportunity to follow my Jamaican side and to follow the footsteps of people like Dudley Stokes (Olympian).

“It is good to represent my father’s land and I am very excited to explore the island once I get through the mandatory quarantine period,” he said.

Jamaica Ski Federation President Richard Salm says Alexander might be at a disadvantage technically compared to more seasoned competitors, but he believes his determination and physical preparation make up for his technical deficiencies.

“I can’t say if he is going to qualify or not,” Salm said. “He started very late but he is a very determined young man. He has really showed great determination to get where he is. He has skied 180 days this year and he has kept himself fit and in good shape physically.

“It’s whether his skiing technique is going to be up to it because it’s going to be an arduous task and there is a huge amount of skiers from many countries.”

Jamaica has been represented at five Winter Olympics, mainly in bobsledding. However, Errol Kerr became the first Jamaican Olympic ski competitor when he qualified for the freestyle event at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada.