November 13, 2016 11:21 pm
Updated: November 14, 2016 4:54 pm

Kind Calgarian drives a dozen Jamaican Olympic bobsledders to race after van breaks down

WATCH ABOVE: It could have been the sequel to ‘Cool Runnings’ or a blessing in disguise. Either way, a stressful turn of events unraveled into a great story and new friendship for the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team when their van broke down in Calgary on the way to a race. Lisa MacGregor reports.


The story about the underdog Jamaican bobsled team who made their debut at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary is one many Canadians remember. It inspired the movie Cool Runnings, which became a fan favourite, especially for Albertans.

The Jamaican bobsled team was back in the city training for the 2018 Winter Games in Korea this weekend but ran into a little bit of car trouble on the way to a race at Canada Olympic Park Saturday.

They’re used to pushing bobsleds – not vans, but twelve of the Olympic Jamaican bobsledders found themselves stranded on a northwest Calgary road after their team vehicle broke down.

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With all the problems they’ve been having lately with their ride, needless to say, it was a long time coming.

“We’ve had some issues with the battery, the lights coming on. The power steering fluid has been leaking tremendously. We noticed our brake light was coming on when we travelled from Whistler to here,” Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, the Jamaican women’s bobsled team pilot, said.

Coincidentally, it happened in the city where the team originally made their debut in the Olympic sport.

“Of course it’s where things are going to go wrong,” Surf Fenlator-Victorian, the men’s team pilot, said.

Lucky for the Olympians, Good Samaritan Dave Schnerch happened to come along. You might call him the 2016 version of Irv Blitzer from Cool Runnings, whose character was played by the late John Candy in the 1993 classic. Blitzer was the fictional character from the movie that helped get the team to their first Olympic Games in the sport – at all costs.

“I’m driving down Beddington Trail and we see a white van, very large passenger van, on the side of the road, no flashers on. I was like, ‘that’s not good.’ And a whole bunch of people out front. As we’re passing, I noticed the Jamaican symbol on their jerseys,” Schnerch said.


Actor John Candy as his character ‘Irv Blitzer’ in the movie Cool Runnings.

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Good Samaritan David Schnerch.

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“He came, had a charger for the battery and charged us up. We were like, ‘yes it works! OK let’s get to the race’. As soon as we hit the gas pedal, the van just shut down again. Luckily he was right around the corner,” she said.

So then Dave came back to help again and give the team a ride.

“I said, ‘well OK, let’s get you to the races,'” Schnerch said.

But there were too many bobsledders for one trip, so Schnerch dropped the first four off. Then, he and his wife went home to get more vehicles to carpool the rest of the team.

The team made it to their race in the nick of time.


Schnerch also lent the team his work truck until their van gets repaired.

Like a lot of Calgarians, Schnerch and his family have always felt a connection to the team.

“They’re part of us, Jamaican bobsled team is Calgarian, that’s how we feel,” Schnerch said.

The Jamaican bobsledders also feel the connection.

“Canadians and the community in Calgary is just wonderful. Especially with 1988 being the debut of the Jamaican bobsled team,” Jazmine said.

“That’s how Cool Runnings even started, was somebody helping out,” Surf Fenlator-Victorian said. “Our culture in general, you have to roll with the waves and how it goes.”

Like Irv Blitzer says, “whether you win or lose a bobsled race, it’s all about right here. The push start.”

“You’re gonna crash sometimes and sometimes you’re going to have a perfect run,” Surf Fenlator-Victorian said.

It’s a long and exciting road for the Jamaican team on the way to the next winter Olympics in PyeongChang. There’s bound to be a few bumps.

“You’re gonna crash sometimes and sometimes you’re going to have a perfect run,” Surf Fenlator-Victorian said.

The team will also have help getting to the start of international training in Whistler on Tuesday, as Driving Force, a local trucking company, has agreed to help the athletes get there.

Locals are also showing support by making donations to the team on their fundraising and GoFundMe pages.

It was a happy ending to a road trip for a team that has some very special ties to Calgary. It could even make for a great sequel to Cool Runnings.



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