Jamaican women’s bobsled team makes Olympic bow after rocky time

The Jamaican women’s bobsleigh team hasn’t had the smoothest Winter Olympics. Their German coach quit last week and the team only secured a sled to race at the last minute.

But those obstacles didn’t stop the Jamaican women making their Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018 on Tuesday, 30 years after the Jamaican men’s bobsled team captured hearts around the world, which inspired the movie, “Cool Runnings.”

Racing at the Olympic Sliding Centre in South Korea, pilot Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and brakewoman Carrie Russell clocked 51.29 seconds in the first heat and then 51.50 seconds in the second.

Those times put Jamaica in 18th place, 1.53 seconds behind leaders Germany.

‘Puppet on a string’

The preparations of the Jamaicans had been thrown into chaos last Thursday after it was announced on Twitter that coach and former Olympian, Sandra Kiriasis, had left the team.

“Sandra Kiriasis has elected not to continue her position with Jamaica Bobsleigh,” the Jamaican Bobsled Federation (JBSF) wrote. “We are deeply disappointed in her decision to leave the program.”

Later JBSF President Christian Stokes described Kiriasis as a “hugely destructive force on the team.”

Kiriasis responded in a Facebook post, saying that she did not understand “the reasons behind the decision of Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation and certainly will not allow herself to be used as a puppet on a string.”

She confirmed that she had rented a bobsled in Winterberg, Germany, but did not directly address whether she would be taking it away from the team.

Red Stripe to the rescue

Just in the nick of time, Fenlator-Victorian and Russell secured a sled — thanks to the intervention of Jamaican beer company Red Stripe after it tweeted: “No bobsled, no problem. If you need a new ride @Jambosled, put it on @RedStripe’s tab. DM us and we’ll be in touch.”

A day later, after the team did get in touch, Red Stripe tweeted again with the hashtag #RedStripeToTheRescue: “You’ve got yourselves a new sleigh from your friends at @RedStripeUSA! Make us proud, and get ready for the good vibes.”

On Sunday, ahead of their race, the Jamaica Bobsleigh team tweeted photos of their new ride: “We are feeling your love here in PyeongChang! Just doing a little maintenance on our very own sled.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria became the first African country to compete in bobsleigh at the Olympic Winter Games.

Represented by Seun Adigun and Akuoma Omeoga, Nigeria completed the two heats in 1:44.76 and is in 20th place out of 20 teams, 3.5 seconds behind leaders Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz of Germany.