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Jamaican bobsled is back with a women's team … driving a rental

William Douglas, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- The Jamaican women's bobsled team is driving a rental at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

After it discovered that its Japanese-built ride wasn't up to international competition specs, the team was forced to rent a Latvian-made sled from a German bobsled club.

"The equipment was not viable for us in order for us to qualify for these Olympics," said Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, the team's pilot. "So in the middle of the season we had to kind of make an emergency change to have competitive equipment."

Just another obstacle overcome by Jamaica's first women bobsledders, who'll take to the winding iced concrete track in Pyeongchang some 30 years after a men's team from the Caribbean island captured the world's imagination by racing at the Winter Games in Calgary.

Their exploits inspired the 1993 Walt Disney movie "Cool Runnings," which in turn helped attract a generation of youth from all backgrounds and countries to the sport -- including several of the African American members of the U.S. women's bobsled team.

Fenlator-Victorian and teammates Carrie Russell and Audra Segree recognize the feel-good island rhythm and rhyme legacy that their male predecessors brought to the Olympics.

 

They nicknamed their bobsled "Mr. Cool Bolt," a homage to "Cool Runnings" and retired Jamaican track legend Usain Bolt. But the Jamaican women are also intent on showing the world that they're stone-cold competitors and not a cute female "Cool Runnings 3."

"We're trying to change that narrative," she said. "We know that we're one of the best on the hill and we hope that we can optimize our potential when it counts in Pyeongchang."

Getting here wasn't easy. Like their male counterparts, the Jamaican women's team has had to deal with financial hurdles. The team doesn't have deep-pocket sponsors like rival nations.

"Jamaica, if it was any other sport, we'd see far more support from the corporate in our country," said Russell, a world-class sprinter who transitioned to bobsled in the 2016-17 season. "It forced the (Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton) federation to invest in us out of pocket."

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