Leadership Academy Gets a Visit From the Jamaican Bobsled Team

 Boys Basketball Coach Jeff Ike poses with the Jamaican Bobsled team
Boys Basketball Coach Jeff Ike poses with the Jamaican Bobsled team

Spencer Schultz

Editor of Production

Jamaica: a Caribbean island country known for its Reggae music, coconut rum, warm white sand beaches, and its Olympic bobsled team. It doesn’t seem likely that there’d be a Winter Olympics team in a country where it never snows. Yet, against all odds, the tropical island of Jamaica was able to qualify their bobsled team for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games, and they hope to do so again at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

As part of the Leadership Academy run by Dr. Scott Vinciguerra and Jamesville-DeWitt High School Athletic Director John Goodson, six members of the Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation drove down from their Lake Placid training center to share stories of their “drive, desire, and determination” after school on March 29. The four-man bobsled team includes Tyrone Mullings, Seldwyn Morgan, Arubdel Dixon, and Jordan Nelson, and the two skeleton riders are Kemari Stewart and Anthony Watson. The athletes were accompanied by their coach, and three time bobsled olympian, Devon Harris.

For a team from a small tropical country, it hasn’t always been easy for the Jamaican Bobsled team to reach success. As one of the most expensive sports in the world, bobsledding requires the purchase of costly equipment, including $25,000 sleds. Met with low funding, the team has struggled to purchase such equipment, and has had difficulty in finding the money necessary for traveling and training expenses.

This would seem a recipe for disaster, but the team has been able to persevere and train despite these setbacks. “We’ve just had to get back up and keep going,” says brakeman Mullings. During summers, the team trains in Jamaica using makeshift sleds that they push and run behind. In winter, they travel to the United States or Canada to train in one of the four bobsledding tracks in North America.

Mr. Goodson and Mr. Vinciguerra hope that the student athletes that attended the seminar will be able to transform the stories of the Jamaican Bobsled Team’s struggles into inspiration for their own success, not only in sports, but also in life.

“The tale of the Jamaican Bobsled Team is that of the underdog, and that is something that any person looking to achieve a goal can be inspired by,” says junior Paige Petrell. “You have to keep trying no matter what. That’s the basis of their teamーthey kept tryingーand it got them an Olympic team,” says Petrell.          

After missing out on the two-man final in Sochi, the bobsledders have their eyes set on Pyeongchang in 2018. The team will rely on their mentor, Devon Harris, to bring them back to that Olympic level. Harris’s experience in 1988, 1992, and 1992 Olympics will be a valuable asset to a team that has been faced with great setbacks and a lack of experience. “Whatever happens, we want to be the best we can be, and that means getting back to the Olympics and taking the gold,” says Dixon.