Jamaican Bobsled Team – Fact or Fiction?

The movie ‘Cool Runnings’ was a massive hit portraying a country of people who had never seen snow, but somehow built a team of locals to compete in the Winter Olympic Games. The concept of a team of Jamaicans in the freezing cold trying to figure out and compete on the international stage at a sport that doesn’t even exist in their country is hilarious, but was it based on any truth? The answer is YES, the Jamaican Bobsled team was in fact a true Bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics and below you will find the details of their amazing story!

How did a group of Jamaicans decide to create a Bobsled team?

The most baffling question that comes to mind when pondering the existence of a Jamaican bobsled team is how did they come about. While they obviously have access to watch the Winter Olympic games, why on earth would they just randomly decide to start practicing a sport that’s impossible to practice in their homeland. The only ice that exists in Jamaica lives in the glasses of cocktails, so even if they were able to build a bobsled there’s no way to actually practice the sport in the right conditions! The answer to this perplexing question is that the country of Jamaica actually did not select a group of athletes to partake in this seemingly random sport, but two Americans formed the team.

Who were the real guys who went to Jamaica to form a team?

The two men responsible for forming the legendary Jamaican Bobsled Team were both from the United States. Their names were George Finch and William Maloney who both had family and business connections in Jamaica. They were businessmen who at the time were living in Jamaica and after watching a local pushcart derby they had a crazy idea that perhaps Jamaicans put their talents to the ice!

Why Jamaicans?

The reason that George and William thought a Jamaican Bobsled Teams was worth a shot is that people from this island nation are very, very fast. They are known to be phenomenal sprinters and because the beginning of a bobsled run is arguably the most important aspect, it’s logical that Jamaicans could excel in the sport. The American businessmen had no success in trying to obtain the nation’s best sprinters, so they eventually recruited their team from the nation’s military.

Who were the Jamaican Bobsled Team?

Dudley Stokes, Devon Harris, Nelson Stokes and Michael White composed the original Jamaican Bobsled team that debuted in the 1988 Winter Olympics. They quickly became worldwide fan favorites as their participation in the Olympic Bobsled Team was quite literally the ultimate underdog story of all time. They hardly had any actual practice on a real bobsled track prior to the Olympic games, which was quite possibly the first time this ever occurred.

How did the Jamaican Bobsled Team actually perform?

Despite the massive hype and widespread media attention for the team they didn’t officially finish the event. Unfortunately they crashed during one of their four runs, despite showing significant improvement throughout the games. The Jamaicans continued to pursue an Olympic Bobsled team and qualified for every Winter Olympics until recently. In 1994 they had their best ever finish at 14th place, above many of the most favored participants in the world.

By Alex Vere Nicoll