The scene is one of the most emotional tear-jerking moments in any sporting movie. Jamaica‘s Olympic bobsleigh team, having overcome every conceivable obstacle (not least the balmy Jamaican weather had hardly helped their training), are hurtling down the track at near world-record speed. The impossible is looking as though it might just happen and the four men who arrived in Calgary for the 1988 Winter Olympics are starting to look like real medal contenders. All is lost in a horrible crash, but the men then elevate themselves above the status of mere mortals as they rise from the carnage, lift their sled and carry it defiantly over the finishing line.
Cool Runnings, made in 1993, told the story (loosely based on true events) of the attempt of the four Jamaican men to bring home the most unlikely of medals – for the winter sport of bobsledding. So how did the film differ from the events that actually occurred both under the Jamaican sun and at the climax in Calgary?
For a start there was no single American disgraced coach (as played by John Candy). There were in fact a number of coaches assigned to the team. In the film the team is met with animosity and derision by the other competitors in Calgary. What actually happened was that other teams were very supportive and full of encouragement for the Jamaican rookies and even lent them their equipment to help them train.
But perhaps the biggest surprise is that the climax where the men lift the sled as if it were the coffin of a loved on and carry it over the line didn’t actually happen. The reality was still an act of bravery, if a little less dramatic than that portrayed within the movie.
While the story may end there as far as the movie is concerned, the real story of Jamaican bobsled lived on well beyond 1988. The team competed again in 1992 but finished well down the order but returned to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway and finished a very creditable 14th, ahead of the USA and Russia. In fact at its most successful point the team was ranked 8th in the world.
Internal struggles followed and the team slipped close to oblivion, but renewed backing with coaching and sponsorship has kept the dream alive. While the Jamaicans have failed to qualify for the last two Olympics they are still very much around and hope to be back at the 2014 Olympics in Russia.
Speaking of the those upcoming games in Sochi, perhaps the movie will turn out to have an element of accident truth about it. Apparently the Jamaica team hopes to add more sleds and more drivers to enhance its preparations.
The story isn’t over yet, mon.
Photo | Wikipedia