Is Cool Runnings a true story? Real events of Jamaican Winter Olympics bobsleigh team 1993 movie was based on

Jamaica’s four-man bobsled returns to the stage once more in Beijing

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The 1993 story Cool Runnings was inspired by the true events of the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team which was the first ever Jamaican bobsled team to qualify for a Winter Olympics.

With a four-man Jamaican bobsled team qualifying for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics for the first time in 24 years - after stealing the final spot in the 28-sled field - many people will be remembering the country’s previous heroics at the event and how the film Cool Runnings has become one of the most iconic sports films in recent years.

With just over a week to go before the Jamaican bobsled team take to the ice once again, it cannot be long before fans around the world are crying out “Feel the rhythm! Feel the Rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time”.

Team Jamaica even revealed the announcement by tweeting: “Jamaica, we have a bobsled team!”

Much like many other film adaptations, Cool Runnings has little accuracy to the true events of the 1988 film, yet it has still remained an extraordinary success and hilariously funny homage to those four men who made it to Calgary.

What is the plot of Cool Runnings?

The story starts with the Jamaican sprinter Deric Bannock training for the 100 metres in the hope of making it to the Summer Olympics in 1988.

Fellow runner Junior Bevil accidentally stumbles and knocks himself, Bannock and Yul Brenner down.

Jamaica at the 2022 Opening ceremonyJamaica at the 2022 Opening ceremony
Jamaica at the 2022 Opening ceremony

After spotting a picture of the disgraced bobsled medallist Irving Blitzer - who was disqualified for cheating in the 1972 Winter Olympics - Bannock begins to form his own bobsled team in the hope of qualifying for the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Despite continuous challenges, including not only convincing athletes to form a team and convincing Blitzer to train the men, the Jamaicans eventually make it to Calgary.

The men are initially disqualified by the Olympic committee as retribution for Blitzer’s own cheating scandal, but after Blitzer pleads with the committee, the Jamaicans are reinstated.

The four men finished in last place on the first day but after encouragement to ‘bobsled Jamaican’ they improved and finished in eighth place on the second day.

During the final race, one of the bobsled’s blades detaches, flipping over the bobsled.

Determined to finish the race, the four men pick up their ‘cool runnings’ bobsled and carry it across the finishing line earning the applause of the other teams and spectators.

An epilogue goes on to then explain that the team return to Jamaica as heroes and return to the 1992 Winter Olympics to participate as equals.

What is the true story of the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team?

George Fitch - the original spark for the Jamaican bobsled team - said that about 1% of the story is true.

During an ASPN interview, Fitch said “What is fact is the crash, everything else is fiction. This ‘feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, it’s Jamaica bobsled time’, that was strictly Hollywood.”

Fitch was a former commercial Attache for the American embassy in Kingston and, during a wedding in Jamaica, mentioned to Jamaican military officer and former soccer player Ken Barnes that the athletes in Jamaica should be able to compete in any Olympic sport.

According to the Olympics: “After watching the country’s annual push cart derby in the Blue Mountains, Fitch figured that the nation’s depth of sprinting talent would translate well to bobsleigh.”

After recruiting two of the Military’s twop runners - Mike White and Devon Harris - as well as helicopter pilot - Dudley Stokes - Fitch then used his own money to train the team.

While taking partin in a World Cup race in order to qualify for the Calgary Olympics, the IOC continued to try and disqualify the team but various supporters,. Including Prince Albert of Monaco, stepped in to help the Jamaicans.

Ultimately the Jamaicans were forced to sell T-shirts in a bid to raise money and purchase a four-man bobsled from the Canadian team and during the race the sled struck the wall at the ninth corner, flipping the sled.

The Olympics continues by saying: “After pushing their sled to the finish line, the disappointed team members waved to the crowd and shook hands with a number of fans before leaving the track, assuming the story was over. Then Hollywood called.”

What’s the story in 2022?

The current four-man bobsled team is made up of Matthew Wekpe, Nimroy turgott and Lance Corporal Shanwayne Stephens.

This will also be the first time that the Caribbean county has qualified in three Olympic bobsled events: the four-man; the two-man and the women’s monobob.

Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian will appear at her second Olympics to compete in the women’s monobob.

The team will compete in the bobsled event on Saturday 19 January 2022. Go to our article on how to follow the Winter Olympics to find out more on how to watch them!

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