Meet the Jamaican Bobsleigh Team
As soon as we heard that the Jamaican bobsleigh team were competing in the Winter Olympics, we knew that people of all nationalities would be rooting for them. After all the uncertainty over whether they would make it to Sochi, and the overwhelming support shown by fans, the story has a real feel-good factor, and while support remains strong for Great Britain, many want to see Jamaica go all the way. In fact, just for fun we surveyed 500 Brits on which Winter Olympic bobsleigh team they were most likely to support, and found that fourteen per cent will be rooting for Jamaica – the legacy, no doubt, of Cool Runnings.
There’s little doubt that Jamaica have added an element of interest to the bobsleigh event. After all, it has been twelve years and two missed Winter Olympics since Jamaica hit the slopes. For Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon, getting to this point has been anything but plain sailing – or should that be sleighing? – as a series of funding and sponsorship setbacks left the team unable to afford necessary equipment, let alone transport. But when the cash-strapped team turned to fans for financial support, they were met with heart-warming generosity, surpassing their $80,000 goal within just two days and taking a step closer to their Winter Olympic dream.
With Jamaica’s place at the Games now secure, the eyes of the world are on the two-man team – so let’s find out a little bit more about them.
Name: Winston Watts
Winston Watts is captain of the Jamaican bobsleigh team and a Winter Olympic veteran. At 46 years of age, his long career includes three Winter Olympic Games: Lillehammer 1994, where Jamaica finished a respectable 14th place ahead of France, Russia and the USA, Nagano 1998, where the team finished 21st, and Salt Lake City 2002, where Watts and teammate Lascelles Brown finished 28th but broke the push-start record at 4.78 seconds.
Born in the rural town of May Pen, Clarendon, Watts grew up enjoying football and discus-throwing, but only when he joined the military bobsleigh programme did he discover his true athletic calling. Watts left Jamaica for New York and now lives in Wyoming, about an hour’s drive from the famous training facilities at Evanston.
Although Jamaica failed to qualify for the Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Watts’s passion for the sport never melted. So when he lost his job as a wireline operator in the Wyoming oilfields, and with a young family to support, he made the brave decision to come out of athletic retirement after almost a decade and return to the sport full-time.
In his own words, Watts is ‘one of life’s optimists’. He is also the financial pillar of the team, having contributed his own money whilst leading the fundraising efforts for Sochi 2014.
Watts describes himself and Marvin Dixon as ‘Cool Runnings, the Second Generation’, referring to Jamaica’s first and most famous bobsleigh team. And judging by the story so far, it seems that this is a sequel-in-the-making.
Name: Marvin Dixon
Height: 5ft 9in
Born in Rockfort, St Andrew, Marvin Dixon is a versatile athlete: formerly a quarter-mile sprinter at club level, he has sleighed competitively since 2007.
In preparation for Sochi 2014, financial difficulties forced team captain Winston Watts to downsize from a four-man to a two-man team, selecting Dixon as his brakeman or ‘pusher’. No doubt drawing on his sprinting experience, Dixon’s role is to give the bob a fast take-off, and then to control its speed throughout the course. Look out for Dixon holding the Jamaican flag at the opening and closing ceremonies.
Whatever happens at the Winter Olympics, one thing is for certain: Watts has succeeded in raising the profile of the Jamaican bobsleigh team to Cool Runnings heights. Best of all, the team promise that the additional funding they have received will be used to develop the sport in Jamaica. Win or lose, it seems that Sochi 2014 will be a pivotal moment in the history of Jamaican winter sports.