Thirty years ago, Jamaican men proved they could compete with the best bobsled athletes in the world by qualifying for competition in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, Canada.
During this Black History Month, women from the island will make their mark, maneuvering a sled on the icy Asian track of Pyeongyang South Korea during the winter Olympics.
“This is awesome news!” Olivia Grange said.
“I am proud to send congratulations to Carrie Russel, Audra Segree and Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian.”
They recently qualified for the games and will be among 20 competitors vying in the women’s bobsled event.
“The entire Jamaica is extremely proud of your accomplishment and will be cheering you on as you compete in the Winter Olympics,” the minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport added “It’s good to see that we are doing so well in winter sports.”
The recent qualification marks the first time that women will represent the Caribbean island in the team sport during the winter Olympics.
Carrie Russell, a first-time Olympian who was once a member of one of the country’s track club; Audra Segree, another nationally recognized track athlete and Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, whose Jamaican/USA dual citizenship status enabled her to pilot for Team USA in the 2014 Sochi Olympics before joining Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation the following year – are the trailblazers.
Russell, a sprinter who helped Jamaica win gold in the 4×100-meter relay at the 2013 world track and field championships will push off the sled while Segree will serve as the brake-person for the Jamaican team.
Already the sled is dubbed “Mr. Cool Bolt” in honor of Usain Bolt, the island’s most accomplished Olympic sprinter as well as the first Jamaican bobsled to debut in the winter games which was named “Cool Runnings.”
Three decades ago, the men’s team gained fame and notoriety for being ambitious and talented despite the fact they were regarded as underdogs because they represented a tropical nation in a winter sport.
Undoubtedly, they received more advanced media coverage and positive attention than most of the seasoned competitors tagged to win the coveted event.
Their storied journey to North America was chronicled later in a hilarious, comedy film dubbed to hail the sled, the sledders and their homeland, Jamaica.
Jamaica’s athletes are reputed for impacting sports regardless of the challenge.
The men’s bobsled team has since participated in five of seven winter games but will not be represented in Pyeongchang.
Eleven Jamaicans have competed at the Winter Olympics — all men, and all bobsledders except for Errol Kerr, a ski cross racer Errol Kerr who competed for the island in 2010.
During the last summer Olympics in Brazil, Usain Bolt proved to be the crowd-pleaser attracting more visitors to his country’s hospitality area for being a four-time Olympic champion, the winner of 17 gold medals, back-to-back-to-back-to-back gold medal s and for displaying his personable disposition “to the world.”
Prior to those summer games, in 2012 at the London Olympics, Jamaican men took the 200meters finals making a Jamaican clean sweep for gold medal winner Usain Bolt, silver for Yohan Blake and bronze to third-place finisher Warren Weir.
In 2008 the island’s women swept the 100metres race winning gold, silver and bronze at the Beijing China Olympics.
Shelly-Ann Fraser led sprinters Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart to command three places on the victory podium.
Nostalgia and history also recalls championships Jamaica has qualified and championed against all odds at the Paralympics, and other competitive athletic events.
At this Olympic showcase where feuding North and South Korea will unite to compete as one nation, another historic addition to the PyeongChang lineup will feature three Nigerian bobsledders who qualified last November becoming the first Africans — men or women — to compete at the winter games.
Whether they are received as novelty or not, Jamaicans have already proven that the tropics is no deterrent to their skill, aptitude and perseverance.
The region’s women will once again show that whether it is the summer Olympics or the winter games, Jamaicans are exhibitors of true grit and always ready and willing to make history.