• Reuters


Benjamin Alexander persevered to become the first Jamaican to qualify for alpine skiing at a Winter Olympics despite limited financing, the lack of a full-time coach and the inability to train consistently due to COVID-19.

“I just had to make do with what I had. I think getting to the Olympics and the struggle of getting to the Olympics is about succeeding in the face of adversity. And I have a lot of that,” Alexander said from Zurich on Sunday.

“I spoke to Dudley Stokes, the pilot of the 1988 bobsleigh team. This would have been back in October of last year and I was frustrated that I had been seeking the advice and beg, borrowing and stealing little titbits of information from multiple different coaches, six of them in one week.

“And Dudley said to me, ‘Listen Benji, you’re smart enough to be able to take … the best of what everyone’s offering and leave the rest. And maybe for someone like you, that’s a better situation than having one intermediate or poor coach,'” he said.

The former DJ added that not having access to competition for 17 of the last 24 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic made what he did even more special.

“I thought that (qualifying) might have been a fool’s errand or an impossible mission really, fighting against the border closures and the cancellations of events and competitions, because the pandemic has been the hardest thing and hasn’t really allowed me to get to meets or being able get to meets as quickly as I would have liked,” he said.

Alexander’s place at next month’s Games in Beijing was provisionally confirmed on the website of the international skiing federation (FIS) on Saturday, six years after taking up the sport.

“Unlike with the bobsleighers, it’s possible to be moved out of the qualification place by other people. In skiing, my place is locked,” added the 38-year-old British-based athlete, who is eligible to compete for the Jamaican team through his father Keith Alexander.

He booked his ticket after placing seventh in the giant slalom on Jan. 12 at the Cape Verde National Ski Championships.

“It just feels so good to do something for a country that has such a strong connection and heritage with the Summer Games. Hopefully this can be a big step for us to start to do more and achieve more in the Winter Games,” Alexander said, adding that he’s not setting any targets.

“I’m competing against people that have been skiing since the age of two, who have had their parents put $50 to $100,000 into their training every year from the age of seven all the way through until 18.

“Then their national ski federations have put in $100,000 or $200,000 each year into making this athlete into something and like a magician I pulled off this heroic feat. But I’m no superhuman. I’m still human.

“My story is about inspiring the next generation of Jamaicans to believe that they could do something like this to get out there and try winter sports so that eventually we can bring back a medal to Jamaica.”

Alexander said his career was made possible by the Jamaican bobsleigh team that competed in Calgary, Canada in 1988, which inspired the “Cool Runnings” movie five years later.

“Jamaica would not have an Alpine Olympic skier right now if it wasn’t for what the guys did in 1988. It was that movie and that story of struggle and perseverance that has given me the courage and enthusiasm to try something like this. And it’s also given me so much support because everyone in the world knows that movie,” he added.

Alexander expects to arrive in Beijing around Feb. 3 before competing on the 13th.

Jamaican athletes have also secured automatic qualification in the four-man, two-man and female mono-bobsleigh events.

The two-woman team is also in the alternate position, should one of the 20 teams not take up their place at the Games, which take place from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20.

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