“Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up…”
The epic and oft-used cry from the 1993 movie Cool Runnings, which chronicled the story of the Jamaican bobsled team’s first trip to the Winter Olympics in 1988, has not lost its merits in the 20 years since it was released. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear it chanted everywhere from dorm room drinking games (with some slight variations of course) to the top of big hills in small towns where kids get ready to race their bikes. This year, the popularity of the movie and donations from people all over the world have helped the Jamaican team achieve its dream of heading to Sochi.
Unfortunately, finding funding is difficult for the Jamaicans, who hail from the small island nation known more for sunny vacations than winter sports. This year, the team turned to crowdfunding to meet its financial goals. Incredibly, after just two days, the team received $120,000, well above their goal of $80,000.
“The truth of the matter is we missed the last two Olympic Games,” said Jamaica bobsled general secretary Chris Stokes, who was a part of that legendary 1988 team. “When it became known to the world that we had a chance to qualify for the current one, people in the thousands came out.”
People made donations of everything from five bucks to thousands of dollars, and they poured in from all over the United States, Western Europe, and Australia. Most were from strangers, but some had a relationship with the team before the crowdfunding ever began.
Chiropractor Dr. Tim McCrossen got to know Winston Watts, the Jamaica Bobsled captain, when they both competed in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. After learning of the Jamaican struggles, McCrossen quickly sent some money to his friend.
“When I opened up my practice here in Cincinnati, I reached out to them and they came and did a grand opening, and signed copies of Cool Runnings,” McCrossen said. By returning the favor, the Cincinnati-based doctor is helping the Jamaicans buy the gear they need to not only travel to, but also to compete in, Sochi.
“On behalf of the team we are very happy with the contributions, donations that companies and fans out there contributed to us,” Watts said. “This helps us to exceed and get the equipment that we really need over in Sochi so that we can be more competitive along with the rest of the world.”
The link between the U.S. and the Jamaica bobsled teamdoes not end with financial support, however. The team’s base has been in Evanston, WY. for more than 15 years, perhaps surprisingly, considering both the physical and cultural distance from Jamaica. They have a local attorney to thank for that.
“I thought to myself, what’s a good way to promote Evanston, and I’d seen the movie Cool Runnings, and I thought, ‘well, I wonder where they practice?” Paul Skog said in an interview. In 1997, he gave the team a call and invited them to check out both Evanston and the new bobsled track that was being built in nearby Park City, Utah.
“The team captain [Watts] called me back in June and said, ‘we’d like to make Evanston our training base,’” Skog recollects. The Jamaicans have trained there ever since.
Undoubtedly, the movie played an important role in funding and getting the Jamaicans to Sochi. However, it is the generosity of fans and friends alike who have been willing to turn their support into funding that will make competing in Sochi possible. Though the Jamaicans will be long shots for a medal, people from around the world will certainly be rooting for them.
“I couldn’t walk in the streets of Jamaica if we win a medal,” push athlete Marvin Dixon joked. “Usain Bolt would be second to us, I tell you.”