See the First Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team Now, 34 Years Later
The beloved Olympians were the inspiration for the movie Cool Runnings.
In 1988, the world was inspired by a surprising Olympic story. For the Calgary Winter Olympics, Jamaica sent its very first bobsled team. That team came to be after two American businessmen living in Jamaica watched a pushcart race, which reminded them of bobsledding, on the island. The men who joined the team had not only never bobsledded before but also weren't initially interested—Jamaica is a warm-weather country, after all.
The team came together through open tryouts and recruiting through the military. "I got into bobsledding because I was told to go," explained team member Dudley Stokes during an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) on Reddit in 2013."I was in the Army at the time. The Colonel made the suggestion to me and because I was a Captain, you do as you're told and obey orders."
The bobsledders qualified for the Olympics, and while they were initially only going to compete in the two-man event, they decided to compete in the four-man race once there, using a borrowed Canadian bobsled painted in Jamaica's colors. The four-man team ended up not finishing their event due to a crash, but they became a phenomenon regardless. The 1993 inspirational movie Cool Runnings is loosely based on their story.
Now, it's been 34 years since the Jamaican bobsled team's first Olympics. Read on to find out what happened to the members who competed in the famous four-man race: Dudley Stokes, Chris Stokes, Michael White, and Devon Harris.
They participated in more Olympic Games.
All four members of the bobsled team went on to compete in future Olympics, either in the two-man event, four-man event, or both. Dudley and Chris returned in 1992, 1994, and 1998; Harris (pictured above) returned in 1992 and 1998; and White returned in 1992. The team were more successful following the 1988 race that they didn't complete. In 1992, they came in 25th place in the four-man race, and they came in 14th place in 1994. The Jamaican bobsled team has still never medaled at the Winter Games.
"The lowest part for us was the crash in Calgary, but it fueled our desire to come back," Harris told Inside Edition in 2018. "The crash made sure we came back."
They're still involved in Jamaica's bobsledding tradition.
The men continued to be involved in Jamaican bobsledding after their own retirements from competition. Chris (pictured above) is the chairman of the Jamaican Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. Harris had been the secretary general of the organization, according to Inside Edition. In 2018, Dudley worked with the first Jamaican women's bobsled team to be sent the Olympics, as reported by Today.
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They're fans of the movie—even though it isn't accurate.
Cool Runnings is not very faithful to the bobsled team's real story, especially in how it portrays the way the team came together. (In the movie, a Jamaican sprinter doesn't qualify and tries to find another way to make it into the Olympics.) But, the team does understand why people love the movie so much. "I really enjoyed it. It is a human interest story with a powerful lesson," Harris told Inside Edition. "All of us enjoy the movie. All of us love it."
In his Reddit AMA, Dudley (pictured above) said, "It's a feature Disney film, not much in it actually happened in real life, there were some things that were inspirational [sic] for the film. It is different than a documentary. It's really served Jamaica bobsled very well."
They know that they were trailblazers.
In the Today interview, which featured Chris, White, and Harris, Chris talked about why people find the Jamaican bobsled team's story so motivational. "Jamaica bobsled is about overcoming incredible odds," he said. "What they see in us is themselves. They're going, 'If they can do that, we can do that."'
Following their competition days, Harris and Dudley have both worked as motivational speakers, and Harris wrote a children's book, Yes I Can! The Story of the Jamaican Bobsled Team.