1988: Year Ja wowed the Winter Games
There was never a time when the Jamaican saying 'Wi likkle but wi tallawah' was more fitting than in the winter of 1988 when Jamaica, an island in the Caribbean, qualified and participated in the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada.
Though they were wearing the underdog tag, Jamaica received the loudest applause when they graced the ice as the spectators were in awe of the courage they showed to become the first English-speaking Caribbean country to participate in the Winter Games, recalled Christian Stokes, a member of the team and now president of the Jamaica Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
Their courageous performance inspired the 1993 film Cool Runnings.
And as Stokes remembered, the team's courage to venture into the unknown captivated everyone who was there and those who were watching on television.
"This was before social media, and the team went viral before there was such a thing as going viral," Stokes said. "When they announced the teams - East Germany, America, and other countries - there were cheers, but when they said, 'Here comes Jamaica', the spectators along the track just went wild with their cheering, and I said this is something special."
The team participated in the two-man and four-man competitions. Dudley Stokes Jr, the brother of Christian, and Michael White finished 30th out of 41 teams in the two-man race while the four-man team of the Stokes brothers, White, Devon Harris, and Freddy Powell crashed on their second run.
Christian, a very good sprinter who was training to participate in the summer Olympics in Seoul later that year, was asked to participate after impressing in warm-ups, days before the real race. He was only there to support his brother.
"I got behind the sled and pushed, then jumped in, and I said it felt really good. I loved the speed. The next day, they said, 'We want you to push in the four- man', and I said no, I had to go back to school the next day. The coach, however, said: 'You need to push the sled. What you did yesterday was much better than any of us has done, and we need you on the team, and I ended up in a big argument with my brother, but I decided to try."
Despite their misfortunes, their participation not only placed Jamaica in the minds of many across the globe again, but the sport of bobsleigh also benefited.
"I remember I tried to take a walk out of the village and I was wearing a Jamaica jacket, and people started to mob me while asking me for autographs, and I had to turn back because people were just crowding and pressing on me," Stokes recalled. "In the following years, bobsleigh experienced a massive spike because of our participation."