Advertisement

What happened to… the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team

Click to play video: 'Former Jamaican bobsledders ready to cheer on team after 24-year absence at Olympics' Former Jamaican bobsledders ready to cheer on team after 24-year absence at Olympics
The four-man Jamaican bobsled team will compete in Beijing for the first time in 24 years. As Jayme Doll reports, the athletes who first blazed the trail will be watching closely – Feb 10, 2022

On this episode of the Global News podcast What happened to…? Erica Vella finds out what happened to the Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

Devon Harris always had a passion for sport and dreamed of competing in the Olympics as a teenager.

He spent his childhood in Haughton, a rural district in Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica, but moved to Olympic Gardens in Kingston, Jamaica.

Story continues below advertisement

“I describe it as one of the toughest ghettos in the world, … impoverished, violent,” he said.

READ MORE: Jamaican Olympian urges return of stolen ‘Cool Runnings’ bobsled in Calgary

“The thing that I would say kept me sane was school. I loved school. … I loved to play and guess where I could play? At school. So I discovered sports. … The thing I loved about sports was regardless of what your situation was off the field or on the field, man, it’s my heart against yours; it’s me against you and what you can bring to the table.”

Harris said he was 15 years old when he had dreamed of being an Olympian.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s 1979 and I’m 15 years old and it was a year before the Moscow Olympic Games and ABC Wide World of Sports — American TV — had a series called Road to Moscow, and they showcased athletes from around the world, different nationalities and disciplines,” he said.

“And what I saw in that series were these very average and ordinary people, but they had extraordinary dreams and they had an equally extraordinary desire to achieve those dreams.”

Before pursuing his dream to become an Olympian, Harris enlisted in the army and in 1987, he was asked to try out of the first-ever Jamaican bobsledding team.

“We do this in Jamaica, called the Pushcart Derby, and two Americans who lived in Jamaica saw that and thought it looked like bobsledding,” he said.

“They came to the army looking for athletes, and that’s when I initially heard and as I mentioned, I was not interested. … I thought it was the most absurd, ridiculous idea ever conceived by a man and I remember saying nobody could ever get me to go on one of those things until my Colonel suggested that I try out for the team.”

With the idea in his head, Harris tried out of the team and earned one of four sports; he was going to attend the 1988 winter Olympics.

Story continues below advertisement

“That day I was literally flying around the beach. I just like, ‘Oh,’ so I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m on the team, right?’ Not officially, but yeah, I really felt like Superman,” he said.

It was the Caribbean country’s first Winter games, but hardly its last. In the years since, Jamaica has appeared at every Winter Olympics outside the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.

Story continues below advertisement

Team Jamaica will be competing in the 2022 winter games; it has qualified for the four-man bobsled and two other bobsled events in Beijing.

READ MORE: Jamaica’s 4-man bobsled team makes Olympics for 1st time in over 20 years

On this episode of What happened to…? Harris describes his journey to the 1988 Winter Olympics and Erica speaks with the current Jamaican bobsled team, which is looking to build upon the success of previous teams.

— With Files from Michelle Butterfield.

Contact:

Email: erica.vella@globalnews.ca

If you enjoy What Happened To…? please take a minute to rate it on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts, tell us what you think and share the show with your friends.

If you haven’t subscribed yet — what are you waiting for?

Story continues below advertisement

Subscribing’s easy! Here’s how…

What happened to… the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team - image
  • Open the Apple Podcasts app, search for What Happened To? and select it from the list of results.
  • Once on the What Happened To? page, click the “subscribe” button to have new episodes sent to your mobile device for free.
  • Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.
What happened to… the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team - image
  • Open the Spotify app, search for What Happened To? and select it from the list of results.
  • Once on the What Happened To? page, click the “Follow” button to have new episodes sent to your mobile device for free.
  • Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.

Sponsored content