Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Jamaican bobsled team faces uncertain future

SOCHI, Russia — The Jamaican bobsled team was the life of the party once again at the Winter Olympics, laughing and joking its way through a trip to Sochi that was fraught with enough financial hardship and travel hijinks to film a sequel to “Cool Runnings.”

They remain as lovable as ever, drawing big crowds wherever they went in Sochi. But they almost never got here at all. And after a 29th-place finish in the two-man competition with a 46-year-old driver, the program faces an uncertain future as it tries to move from novelty act to legitimate medal contender.

“We have the athletic ability. We have shown we can do it,” Chris Stokes, president of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation, said. “We just have to pull things together in Jamaica itself.”

The Jamaicans were a sensation when they showed up the Calgary Games in 1988, a fairytale journey from the sandy shores of the Caribbean to the frosty Canadian prairie that inspired the Disney film. They returned the Olympics in 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002. But they haven’t sniffed the podium in any of those trips and needed to bring Winston Watts out of retirement to help end a 12-year Olympic drought and qualify for the Sochi Games.

Watts and Marvin Dixon got the job done, but they needed a last-minute fundraising push that prompted fans from around the world and Samsung mobile to contribute $178,000 in two days to provide the travel budget for the trip. On their way over, some of the luggage they brought was lost, including the runners for their sled and all their sliding gear. The delay kept Watts and Dixon from getting a training run in on the Wednesday before the games.

Their equipment arrived in the nick of time, but the Jamaicans had a rough go of it on the track in Krasnaya Polyana. Their sled almost flipped over on their second run, and the only reason they didn’t finish in last place was that Serbia failed to finish the competition.

“Our journey here is not easy,” Watts said. “There’s nothing easy in life. It was a rocky road to get here. We have been through a lot of obstacles.”

And as Manute Bol’s basketball career, Michael Jordan’s baseball career and maybe even Tim Tebow’s football career show, novelty will only take you so far.

History is full of colorful sporting characters who captivated audiences, only to fade into obscurity when when their athletic prowess couldn’t match the hype generated by their unique backstories. That’s the challenge the Jamaicans face.

They have taken every step of the way with a smile on their faces and the care-free attitude that is a hallmark back home. But there were signs of frustration. The warm reception the Jamaicans received in Sochi stood in stark contrast to the shrugs and indifference they receive at home, where Usain Bolt and the sprinters rule the sports roost and soak up all the local sponsorship money available.

“I’ve been a little perplexed,” Stokes said. “We have been talking to a lot of companies about sponsoring us. They say, ‘How do we connect Jamaican bobsleigh to the people we want to buy our products?”

Stokes then mentioned the remarkably successful fundraising effort and all the attention the bobsled team receives overseas and wonders why companies back home wouldn’t want to latch on.

In turn, several international sliders, including ones from the U.S., have said they wish they could raise so much money as quickly as the Jamaicans did.

“To me, how do you plug into thousands of people, every state in the US, 57 countries around the world loving a team to the point of going in their pocket to support it?” Stokes said. “That should be an easy business problem to solve.”

Stokes is hopeful that the attention they received in Sochi, and the sponsorship from Samsung, will prompt other companies to jump on board and earn them more steadfast support from the Jamaican Olympic Committee that has been so focused on its Summer Games athletes.

“I think we have the athletes, we have the relationships and I expect now to have a new round of funding that will make it a non-issue for us,” Stokes said. “And I expect to have an athlete on the podium within the next four years and maybe an Olympic medal in four to eight years.

“We have the athletic ability. I think we need to bring a little more focus, spread our base a little bit.”

When asked if Samsung would continue its relationship with the bobsled team beyond the Sochi Games, spokeswoman Brett Cummings said, “We’re very happy with our partnership with the Jamaican bobsled team. We are currently focused on the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.”

Because of the expense, the Jamaicans haven’t sent a four-man team to the Olympics since 1998. And the two-man sled has never finished higher than 28th at an Olympics. With Watts “old as dirt” in his words and expected to drive the sled only for another year or two, the Jamaicans also have to develop a new generation of drivers to give them a chance at taking the next step.

“It’s not all about money. It’s about athletes,” Stokes said. “It’s about commitment, dedication, a sense of the program. The argument is not that, if we have money, we will be on the podium. The argument is that we’re going to be on the podium with what we have.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

 
Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 4 Comments

.

Opinion

Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

 
Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jean Sophia Ruckdeshel

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9