Team Jamaica At Its Olympic Nadir After Bobsleighers Underwhelm In China

Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

It was not a triumphant return for Team Jamaica at the Winter Olympics, with the four-man bobsleigh team finishing rock bottom in 28th place in Beijing.

Team Jamaica, who astonishingly made their Olympic debut against all odds in 1998, were back on the slopes after a 24-year exodus. However, pilot Shanwayne Stephens and brakemen Ashley Watson plus push athletes Rolando Reid and Matthew Wekpe finished last in all three Heats.

There was huge vocal support for Jamaica’s bobsleigh team around the  Yanqing National Sliding Centre, with the original four-man team rocketing to fame through the hit 1993 Disney movie Cool RunningsThis film was loosely based on the Caribbean underdogs sensationally making it to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada but finishing in 31st – and last – place.

Team Jamaica crashed in Heat 3 at the 1988 Games, to record a Did Not Finish result. The film depicted that this was due to a mechanical fault, although it was actually caused by a combination of excess speed and driver inexperience.


This Olympic debut 34 years ago marked the start of four consecutive appearances at the Games for the four-man team piloted by Dudley Stokes, who is now runs the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation.

With the four-man bobsleigh returning to the premier event for the sport, Stokes ambitiously claimed: “Our big plan for 2026 is to qualify for four events, two teams per event, and to have someone on the podium in 2030.”

Jamaica’s four-man bobsleigh team narrowly failed to qualify for the 2018 Games in South Korea, as they missed out by one spot in the world rankings.

Former RAF sniper Stephens had the same squad that he has piloted in each four-man race this season. Despite clocking a time of 1 minute 0.80 seconds in Heat 1, they propped up the standings.

Heat 2 was slower, registering their run in 1 minute 1.39s, to leave Jamaica languishing in 28th, 5.19 seconds off the leaders from Germany.

But like the movie, which at times showed mishaps for the popular Jamaicans, it was not a fairytale ending at the Xiaohaituo Bobsled & Luge Track for the four-man team.

In Heat 3 they managed to avoid a near crash and complete the run in 1 minute 1.23s, which left them well off the pace in last place. This slow speed denied them a run in Heat 4, when the top 20 teams would compete for medals.


Following the scare of almost going airborne on their final foray at the Games, the team kissed a lucky egg after the race. This traditional of kissing a lucky egg was something invented by Disney for the hit movie of Cool Runnings, and became a reality at these Olympics that will surely have delighted fans of Team Jamaica.

This was Jamaica’s sixth Olympic run-out in the bobsleigh competition, and in 1988 they also finished rock bottom in 31st place. Germany took gold and silver in the final bobsleigh event of the 2022 Games with Canada claiming bronze.

Stevens also finished last overall in the two-man bobsleigh event. With Nimroy Turgott the pair ended in 30th spot. They came perilously close to flipping at one stage, with a near disastrous slip-up in Heat 1 as they began to move the bobsleigh.

Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, brought up in New Jersey but now living in Texas, finished 19th overall in the inaugural women’s monobob event.

The 36-year-old, who represented the USA at the 2014 Winter Games in Russia and raced for Jamaica four years later in South Korea, plans to help bolster Team Jamaica from behind the scenes to secure long-term sponsorship.

The Disney movie, appearing five years after Jamaica’s maiden foray at the Winter Games, was an overnight sensation. However, the Caribbean islanders appear to be way off the mark and still seem to be shut out of achieving a chance of Olympic glory at bobsled events.

Yet qualifying for the Winter Olympics and taking centre stage, because of their popularity as everyone’s favourite underdogs, is an achievement that Team Jamaica needs to quickly build on.

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