SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Jamaican bobsleigh brakeman Nimroy Turgott’s job is to push the sled as fast as possible, jump in, then “hold on, and have a little prayer.” After all, he will not be required to use the brake till they cross the finishing line.
He will then feel like yelling at his team mate: “Come on, remember you’re the best driver in the world.”
But before anyone thinks Turgott will give his team mate an almighty earache, he added: “But I’m saying it in my mind because I don’t want to be shouting and distracting him.”
In Beijing, the 29-year-old is expected to feature in the two-man bobsleigh as well as Jamaica’s four-man line-up, who have qualified for the event for the first time in 24 years.
The country will also compete in the new women’s monobob event and there is a chance they could feature in the two-woman race if a qualified nation has to drop out.
Jamaica’s bobsleigh teams have been a welcome sight at Winter Games ever since the nation, known more for its tropical climate, beat the odds to qualify for the 1988 Calgary Olympics which inspired the feel-good Disney film ‘Cool Runnings’.
But Turgott is not surprised the team qualified, given the work he and his team mates put in.
“Everyone is extremely happy for me because they see how I train and how serious I am about sports, waking up at 4.30 in the morning to go to training sessions,” said Turgott.
Once he is done with training, he looks after his four-year-old daughter.
Those in the men’s team are determined to make amends following their near miss four years ago, when they failed to qualify for Pyeongchang by one spot. Turgott, who comes from August Town, an eastern suburb of Kingston, also wants to put in a good show in the hope that it will give his daughter a better life.
When the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the shutdown of many sporting facilities, some members of the current Jamaican team were quick to draw inspiration from Cool Runnings — with Turgott and Shanwayne Stephens resorting to pushing a Mini Cooper around the streets Peterborough, in eastern England, to stay fit in 2020.
“We weren’t doing it because it’s in Cool Runnings, we were just thinking about how to get better,” Turgott said.
Stephens, a Lance Corporal in the UK’s Royal Air Force, made Queen Elizabeth laugh when describing the training on a video call in 2020.
“Well, I suppose that’s one way to train,” she said.
The Jamaicans are back in Britain after two events in Austria, where their plans were disrupted when someone in the team contracted COVID-19.
“But now for the next couple of days we’re going to train as a group for maybe the first time.”
When not training, Turgott grows various crops and has plans to raise rabbits to meet growing demand from tourists keen to try Jamaican dishes. He also has a side business selling what he claims is the world’s best banana bread.
The Jamaican team also faces challenges when it comes to acquiring equipment. A GoFundMe for the Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation Foundation has raised $5,600 so far, a fraction of the cost for a bobsleigh.
“Jamaica definitely has the athletes, but equipment wise, we don’t have the best equipment. But were not complaining,” Turgott said.
He reckons the Germans and Canadians will be the teams to beat in the men’s events. Germany took gold in the four-man bobsleigh in Pyeongchang, while both countries tied for gold in the two-man event.
Once in Beijing the team members will keep to themselves to avoid COVID-19 derailing their dreams.
“We don’t want to be the ones crying because we can’t compete,” Turgott said.
He also hopes the Jamaican team will capture imaginations, “and let people know, that Jamaicans genuinely are a nice bunch of people, with the reggae vibes, and that’s the kind of vibes we’re looking to bring to the Olympics.”
(Reporting by David Kirton, editing by Pritha Sarkar)