Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Jamaica skier in race against time to qualify for Winter Games

Published:Saturday | July 24, 2021 | 12:08 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
National skier, Ben Alexander.
National skier, Ben Alexander.

Following a five-week training stint in Austria with prominent Austrian skiing school, the Schild Ski Racing Camp, Jamaica’s Winter Olympics ski hopeful, Ben Alexander, was looking forward to his first competitive race since then to see what improvements he has made.

However, the 37 year-old England-born athlete will have to wait a bit longer as his next scheduled event, which was set for next Thursday in Chile, has been cancelled.

Nevertheless, Alexander is hoping to travel to the South American country to continue his training until the winter season resumes in Europe, and he is looking to get some actual competition there before returning to Europe in October.

“The month of training I did on snow (Austria) and the month of physical training afterwards was epic and incredible. It was some of the best training, if not the best training I had.

“The attention of the coaches was very helpful for my technique and my skill set. I am certain I have smashed a few seconds off my time.

“I am a much faster and a more technical skier and I was very excited for the next race. But Chile didn’t have much snow and the race that was supposed to happen on the 29th is cancelled,” he stated.

Had the event not been called off, Alexander still would have had difficulty participating in the event, as the Chilean borders are currently closed because of COVID-19 and will not reopen until Monday.

“I haven’t been able to get into Chile because the borders have been closed. They will be reopening on Monday and the Jamaica Ski Federation (SKF) is working with the Chilean Embassy to get me a letter so I can get access to Chile.

“Hopefully I’ll be there by Monday or Tuesday and back to training,” he said.

Alexander is hoping the event is rescheduled for late August, and expects to do at least one other race while in the South American country.

TIME TO QUALIFY

He has until January to qualify and, the more events get cancelled, the smaller the window for his qualification gets.

Nevertheless, he thinks the three months remaining in the European season, beginning in August, is enough time to seal his qualification.

“Every race that gets cancelled because of COVID-19 hurts my chances. Every week that I am not on snow, or because of the coronavirus or borders being closed, hurts my chances of qualification

“And every month longer it takes me to get to qualification hurts me financially. So it hurts me in three different ways but I still feel very confident that I have enough time to get to where I am going.

“There are enough races in Europe at the beginning of their winter to the qualification deadline.

“So even if I wasn’t able to get into Chile, I will still have enough time to do it, though it would just be super tight,” he said.

Olympic qualification scores are defined by the average of a competitor’s best two results and, so far, Alexander has been able to get his average down to 378, just 218 points shy of the 160 needed for his historic qualification. The next Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, China February 4-20 next year

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com