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'We're not going there to bring up the rear' - Bobsledders looking to make mark at Sochi Winter Olympics

Published:Tuesday | January 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Members of Jamaica's bobsleigh team go through a practice run during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. File
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 André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter

Struggling to contain his excitement, veteran captain and driver of Jamaica's Sochi 2014-bound bobsled team, Winston Watts, is hoping that the team's return to the Winter Olympics will inspire a new generation of bobsledders and breathe new life into a sport that has not always enjoyed the Jamaican spotlight.

Watts also made it clear that the team will not be satisfied with simply making up numbers at the marquee winter sport event.

"We are not going there to bring up the rear, I hate losing. We are all going there to work hard, and if we execute, you will see a good result," Watts said.

The former army man came out of retirement to steer Jamaica back into the Winter Olympics - a stage they have missed since 2002, following successive qualifications after the nation's historic appearance in Calgary in 1988 - an appearance lionised by 1993 Disney comedy Cool Runnings.

The 46-year-old, who learnt of the team's qualification in the early hours of yesterday, is hoping that their latest success will trigger greater support for the sport here.

SERIOUS TEAM

"In terms of impact, we want the business community to see that the Jamaica bobsled team is serious like other athletes are, and I would want them to come on board so that we can dominate the world like track and field. It can happen, we have the athletes, we just need the help," Watts told The Gleaner from his Evanston, Wyoming home and training base.

"It's just a lot of emotions," Watts continued. "The last qualification was in 2002, and I knew we didn't have the funding, and we have been going through this crisis for many years now. We really scraped through to qualify."

He added: "As Jamaicans, we are dedicated to whatever we put our hearts to, and that is what myself and my team-mates did with little or no funding, and we are all very emotional right now."

The 1994, 1998 and 2002 Olympian, who shared that he was home when he heard the news of the team's qualification, said the other team members - Marvin Dixon, Wayne Blackwood and coach, Thomas Samuels - were all extremely excited about the qualification.

"I was at home, and I got a phone call early this (yesterday) morning to check my email. I had a headache same time," Watts joked. "When I saw it I ran downstairs and told my mom we were in; we were all very happy about it."

He also had a message to the team's millions of supporters across the world.

"We wont give up, and I would love for you guys to back us to the very end. We are die-hearted like Usain Bolt and our other great Jamaican athletes, so we are there to do our best and represent Jamaica. It's a different sport, and it's very hard, but just bear with us and share in this with us," said Watts.

The team is expected to arrive in Sochi on February 5 ahead of the February 7 Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics. The team will compete in the two-man bobsled competition, which will take place on February 19 and 20.