• Kyodo

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With the Pyeongchang Olympics approaching, craftsmen from Tokyo are giving Jamaican bobsleigh athletes an extra push with an original sled.

A group of independent factory workers in the shitamachi working-class area of Tokyo supplied a two-woman bobsleigh to Jamaica this season, aiming to improve the Caribbean nation’s chances.

The project, Shitamachi Bobsleigh Network Project, kicked off in 2011 as a way for factory workers in Tokyo’s Ota Ward to demonstrate their technique and skill to the world. However, with little luck signing a deal to supply Japan for the Sochi and Pyeongchang Games, the group turned in 2015 to Jamaica to take their sled to the world stage.

Jamaican athletes failed to qualify for the 2006 Turin Olympics and 2010 Vancouver Olympics. At Sochi, Winston Watts and his partner, Marvin Dixon, finished 29th in the two-man event.

The Japanese group made numerous improvements to their equipment, making use of feedback from the athletes and the latest technology.

“The strength of the ‘downtown’ (Tokyo) area is that specialists can discuss their ideas and thoughts freely,” said Yoshihiko Kunihiro, the head of the project’s promotion committee.

The 10th version of the machine is now full of innovative twists created by the Japanese group to allow the athletes to power down the course at full speed. The sled has also become smaller and lighter.

Based on the latest world rankings, Jamaican athletes still have a chance to compete at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics in South Korea.

Driver Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, a United States-Jamaica dual citizen who competed for the U.S. at Sochi, said she was impressed with the craftsmanship. She said she looks forward to racing not just for Jamaica but for the project team members in Tokyo, as well.

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