Jamaican in tears over Olympic journey

Sunday, February 11, 2018

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Pyeongchang , South Korea (AFP) — Jamaica's Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian broke down in tears on Saturday as she described the journey that has led her to the Pyeongchang Olympics as part of a trailblazing bobsled team.

Fenlator-Victorian, who has switched to Jamaica after representing the United States at Sochi 2014, welled up and struggled to talk when she spoke of the importance of being a role model for black children.

“It's important to me that little girls and little boys see someone that looks like them, talks like them, has the same culture as them, has crazy curly hair and wears it natural, has brown skin, included in different things in this world,” said an emotional Fenlator-Victorian.

“When you grow up and you don't see that, you feel like you can't do it. And that's not right. So coming home to Jamaica, I wanted my Jamaican people to see that they can do it, that there's not just one path to get out of poverty and make a name for themselves.”

Thirty years after the famous Cool Runnings Jamaican men's bobsleigh team competed at Calgary 1988, the women's team are the country's first female Winter Olympians.

Nigeria's Seun Adigun, who will be joined by Akuoma Omeoga on the South Korean ice, is another former American who is taking bobsled to new audiences.

Fenlator-Victorian and Adigun both left the US bobsled programme for their own long shot efforts that have paid off in extra attention this month at Pyeongchang.

“To start your own federation as well is really impressive,” said US bobsledder Lauren Gibbs.

Gibbs gave up a big salary to take a chance on bobsled and will join two-time Olympic medallist Elana Meyers Taylor in trying to capture gold.

“I've always been a risk-taker,” Gibbs said. “My dad wasn't too happy about it. The corporate world just really wasn't meant for me.

“I didn't consider it giving up anything; I consider it gaining things that I really enjoy. Money can't buy this experience.

“At the end of my life I can't take the money with me, but I can have the memory of being selected at 33 to the Olympic team.

“Take chances, folks.”

US women came to bobsled from other sports such as athletics, volleyball and softball, and see the empowerment and diversity impact it can make.

“I call it the hidden gem of women's sports,” says pilot Jamie Greubel Poser. “It's cool for all of us to see the sport grow in places where it wasn't on the radar. We want to spread the word so more women can have the opportunity.”

Aja Evans, who backstops Poser, ended her athletics career and jumped into bobsled.

“The skills from other sports transition well to bobsled,” she said. “It's all about power, speed, explosiveness at the start. A lot of collegiate women are ready for bobsled and they don't know about it.”

Evans applauds the chance bobsled offers to women in surprising places.

“Diversity is great,” Evans said. “Now you have Jamaican and Nigerian athletes coming in. The world is finally catching up and realising the potential all across the board. It's amazing to be a part of that.”

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