Jamaica’s two-man bobsled qualifiers to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia did not win a medal or even make the Top 20 list of competitors. However, after their appearance at the winter games, the Caribbean’s only competitors are considered golden. Dubbed rock stars in the Olympic Village, brakeman Marvin Dixon and driver Winston Watts received cheers, and perhaps the most overall international attention and acclaim of all the nations represented.
“I wouldn’t say rock star,” Watts said. “I’m from a poor family, so I try not to think that I’m above people, because when you think you’re a rock star, you walk around like a macho man. I’m not like that. I walk around like a normal person, like everyone else. That’s why people love us.”
Humble but charming, Watts has been in demand for photo opportunities, interviews and even a dance-off with U.S. bobsled brakeman Lolo Jones. In fact, the summer Olympian who is making her winter Olympic debut in the sport maybe among the biggest names in Russia. Instead of boosting her image, Jones posted a video of her American teammate dancing with Watts recently. Similar to the recurring media notice Usain Bolt received at the Beijing, China and London, England summer Olympics, on social media, Watts and Dixon have dominated.
Prior to the start of the games New Zealand snowboarder Rebecca Torr tweeted: “Just wanna match with the Jamaican bobsled team.”
Reportedly other athletes have acknowledged using a meet-up app called “Tinder” to track the Caribbean team.
“All the people here like us,” Watts said, “No, that’s not correct. I should say all the people here love us. We are a caring people and we love them too.”
After placing 30th out of 30, Watts was interviewed by reporters on NBC-TV. Following the interview, the station showcased a video and song celebrating the team and island. The song and video were commissioned by the Jamaica Tourist Board in celebration of the country’s only athletes competing at the Winter Games.
Written by Sidney Mills, Jon Notar and Groove Guild “The Bobsled Song” was written to match the course at the Sochi Games. During the two-man bobsled races, the shouts of “to the right” and “to the left” matched the turns on the icy track.
The team’s popularity probably stems from “Cool Runnings,” the 1993 Disney movie loosely based on Jamaica’s 1988 Olympic bobsled team.
U.S. bobsledder Aja Evans said she first learned about the sport from watching “Cool Runnings” as a child. Now she is considered one of the top brakemen in the world. “Like everybody else, Cool Runnings was my history class in the sport of bobsledding,” Evans added.
“I actually grew up with that movie, so it’s a classic. I love it,” Steven Holcomb of the U.S. team said.
This year, the Jamaican team didn’t even qualify until mid-January. They had little time and even less money to travel to the Olympics. Allegedly, they had little recourse but to turn to social media to raise money. In less than a day they raised more than enough funds to make the trip. They encountered another obstacle when bad weather caused them to miss a connecting flight to Sochi. On arrival to Sochi they were told that their gear and luggage did not make the flight. That set-back caused them to miss out on one day’s training.
They finished next to last in one heat and last in the second. The team didn’t qualify for the fourth and final heat.
“Jamaica rock the whole town,” is a line from the song. Jamaica did not win a medal but a winner over every other country in popularit, their song has become a solid gold theme for the Jamaica bobsled team.