Errol Kerr in action at Mammoth in the United States. Kerr wants to represent Jamaica at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Tym Glaser, Associate Editor - Sport
USAIN BOLT set the nation alight with his sensational 100-metre performance during the Jamaica International Invitational meet eight nights ago at the National Stadium.
After clocking the second fastest time in history, 9.76 seconds, the island is still buzzing about his potential to claim a historic gold in the blue-riband race at the Beijing Olympic Games in August.
As Bolt soaked up the enormity and adulation of his feat last week, another young athlete, born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger - 1986, just like the sprinter, was pounding the pavements of Kingston to keep alive his hopes of representing Jamaica at the Olympics.
For Errol Kerr though, that dream won't be realised three months from now in China - his target is the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of an American mother, Catherine, and Jamaican father, Errol Sr, and raised in the California town of Truckee in the Lake Tahoe area, Errol the younger is making his first trip to the island in an attempt to raise the necessary funds - US$200,000, to compete in the new event of skicross in Vancouver.
Kerr already has a world ranking of 24, without competing in a full season, and finished a surprising fifth at last year's ESPN X Games after receiving a special invite. By a far way the youngest top ranked skicrosser in the world, Kerr believes there is nothing to stop him from winning an Olympic medal if he has the right prepara-tion for the exhilarating, high-speed, downhill event.
"Skicross is like motocross on skis," Kerr, also an accomplished BMX rider, says while describing his sport with the help of a video of his performance at the X Games. "Traditional alpine racing is one at a time, the Olympic format for skicross is four at a time.
"I was introduced to skicross last year. I finished first in the time trials of an event near home which featured some of the best skicrossers in the world and seventh in the event itself," he said.
"I think my background in BMX racing helped me a lot - my strength is definitely my jumping, but good starts out of the gates are critical as well."
Kerr is a year-round skier spending the northern summer on the slopes of New Zealand and he hasn't gone unnoticed back in the land of his birth where he is a highly-rated member of the US national team.
That begs the question, why give away that infrastructure and support to ski for a country you are only visiting for the first time?
"I want to represent the land of my father," he said of his deceased parent. "That's the dream. I don't have any money of my own. Right now, I have the financial backing of the US ski team and all the support of the US team and we travel around the world for free," Kerr said.
"In order for me to leave that cruise ship, I want to build something here and I think it would be way better to come here and do it as I wouldn't just be doing it for myself, I'd be doing it for the whole island."
Proving that dual passports are not always a bad thing, Kerr, 22, has already acquired a Jamaican booklet during his visit and has met the Minister of Sport, 'Babsy Grange, the head of the Sport Development Foundation, David Mais, and several media and potential sponsors with his mother and the president of the little-known Jamaica Ski Federation, Richard Salm.
"The reactions, particularly from the minister, have been very enthusiastic and positive," said Salm. "We are hoping to visit a few more corporations (this week). I'm pretty confident we'll get there but it's not going to happen overnight," he said.
The time-frame for getting everything in order is small as Kerr must state his allegiance by June 1 with the International Ski Federation.
"With the sponsorship, I'd be able to have my own coach and travel around the world to all the big events," Kerr said. "I want to run a full World Cup season next year and get my ranking up to the top 10. That's about 13 to 15 races and the World Championships are also next year in Japan."
This maiden voyage to Jamaica is not all business for Kerr though. He also wants to get a feel for the "land of his father".
"I am absolutely looking forward to seeing where my dad lived," he said of the Petersfield area in Westmoreland. "I have a half brother out there who still lives on that land. I want to see the country. At the moment all I can say is that it's humid."
Catherine Kerr met her husband-to-be during her "hippy" phase in the '70s and they eventually built a small hotel near the Negril lighthouse.
Something to offer
She is looking forward to going back to that part of the island again with her son who "has certain things Jamaican in character" but said there was a reason they hadn't come earlier.
"I always said to my friends that I can't take Errol to Jamaica because they don't want him to be just a nobody," Catherine said. "He has to be a somebody, so I waited. If you are an American coming to Jamaica you should be somebody and have something to offer," she said.
Jamaica's Winter Olympic pioneers, the famous 'Cool Runnings' bobsled team of 1988, wrote themselves into local lore by simply competing at Calgary; Kerr, if everything falls in place, could take it a step further and challenge for a medal under the green, gold and black flag.
Now, that's something to offer.
What is skicross?
SKICROSS (ALSO known as skiercross or skier-X) is a relatively new type of skiing competition.
It is based on the snowboard discipline of Boarder Cross. Despite it being a timed racing event, it is often considered part of the new-school movement of freestyle skiing because it incorporates terrain features traditionally found in freestyle.
In a time trial or qualification round, every competitor skis down the course, which is built to encompass both naturally occurring terrain and man-made features like jumps, rollers and banks. After the time trial, the fastest 16 (in women's events) or 32 skiers (in men's events) compete in a knockout (KO)-style series in rounds of four. A group of four skiers start simultaneously and attempt to reach the end of the course. The first two to cross the finish line advance to the next round.
Competitors are not allowed to pull or push each other during the KO finals. Any intentional contact to other competitors is penalised by disqualification or exclusion from the next race.
The average skicross course is about 800m and competitors reach speeds of up to 60 mph.