It doesn’t take gold to enjoy the Sochi experience

Pilot Winston Watts of Jamaica team 1 salutes the crowd after he finishes a run during the Men's Two-Man Bobsleigh on Day 10 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Pilot Winston Watts of Jamaica team 1 salutes the crowd after he finishes a run during the Men’s Two-Man Bobsleigh on Day 10 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Credit: Getty Images

Editor’s Note: The following piece is from the perspective of Metro World News reporter Alexey Shunaev.

These days, Sochi is at the center of global media attention, but at heart, it’s a typical Russian province. That’s why a crowd gathered around a Russian TV presenter visiting the other day. You can imagine the scene if a major pop star were to visit.

The trailer for the semi-documentary “Keep on Pushing,” about Jamaica’s bobsleigh team preparing for the Olympics, was watched by half a million people on YouTube, probably also thanks to Usain Bolt’s participation. The team did a crowdfunding campaign to go to Sochi, and they succeeded, collecting some $250,000, and off they went. The sleigh captained by Winston Watts had the worst results in all but the first heat. Still, the Jamaicans smiled and cheered, because their dream had come true.

“Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world. I know we have the fastest sleigh in the world,” a smiling Watts tells me. Asked how he can be this relaxed after a big race, Watts laughs for 10 seconds and says, “I’d love to explore the nightlife in Sochi.”

The same day, Vanessa Vanakorn (you may know her as violinist Vanessa-Mae) participated in giant slalom for Thailand, her father’s home country. Like the Jamaicans, she finished last. After finishing, she looked as happy as they did.

“I trained for just half a year before the Olympics,” she explained. “Three times I was close to falling, and before each gate, I was afraid I’d go the wrong way. But I managed to cross the finish line!”

Still, Vanessa-Mae and the Jamaicans got much more attention from the audience than the successful athletes.

“Injuring my hand would be a disaster, of course,” Vanessa-Mae continued. “But this is the Olympics, the dream of every child.”

Wherever they are held, the Olympics are truly unique. They can turn a big star into a loser, and make a loser into a big star. And both will be happy.


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