SOCHI, Russia – The 2014 Olympics are done for Jamaica after finishing last in the two-man bobsled. But the tropical island nation is cherishing its return to the Olympics after missing the last two Winter Games. It aims to "Keep on Pushing" toward the next.
"We have an exciting young set of drivers coming up. … We intend to move forward to Korea (2018) and beyond with a very good program," said Chris Stokes, a member of the original 1988 Jamaican team at the Calgary Olympics that inspired the movie Cool Runnings and now president of the Jamaican Bobsled Federation.
At a press conference Tuesday, Stokes joined the two Jamaicans who finished their competition Monday: pilot Winston Watts, 46, a four-time Olympian, and brakeman Marvin Dixon, 30.
The press conference was held by Samsung, which supports the Jamaican squad and has launched a digital video campaign called "Keep on Pushing."
"We know that throughout the world the Jamaican team is the most famous team in the world," said Watts, who lives Evanston,Wyo.
The Jamaicans train in Wyoming and Park City, Utah. Between Olympics, the team races at the four tracks in North America; Park City and Lake Placid, N.Y., in the USA and Calgary, Alberta, and Whistler, British Columbia in Canada.
The Jamaican team arrived here without some of its gear, which made a delayed arrival on a flight from New York.
"Our journey here is not easy. … It was a rocky road to get here. We have been through a lot of obstacles," said Watts.
"The bobsled was sitting here, but the equipment that goes onto the bottom of the sled that was left back in New York. We had to miss our first day of training.'
In the two-man bobsled, the Jamaicans were last among 29 finishers. A bobsled form Serbia did not finish.
But the Jamaicans were warmly received by fans at the Sanki Sliding Center.
"After I get to the finish line and look at the stands, I see 99% Russians," said Watts. "These people, they cheer, and I love you, I love you, Russia."
The Jamaicans did not qualify for the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. The two-man team qualified for Sochi, but to get here the Jamaicans had to raise about $130,000 with the help of an Internet crowdfunding campaign.
Can Jamaica ever really compete without a big-time budget?
"I hear that all the time," said Stokes. "Let me tell you a story."
He recalled the 1994 Olympics in Norway when the Jamaican four-man team beat both entries from the big-spending USA.
"So it's not all about money," said Stokes. "It's about athletes. It's about commitment, dedication … We are going to be on the podium with what we have. That (money) will help us get there faster, and that's where we stand."