By Karolos Grohmann
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Former Olympic and world champion Sandra Kiriasis on Thursday blamed her sudden departure as coach of the Jamaican women’s bobsleigh team to an inexplicable demotion by team officials that she could not have accepted.
The German was preparing for Jamaica’s first female bobsled appearance at an Olympics but her Pyeongchang Games adventure was cut short on Wednesday before the team even got to compete.
The Jamaican bobsleigh federation president Christian Stokes said Kiriasis had been “a destructive force on the team” but the 43-year-old rejected the allegations and said she had been suddenly demoted to a position as the team’s track analyst.
“Without giving any reasons I was told out of the blue that with immediate effect I should work only as a track and performance analyst, would have to leave the Olympic village, would lose my accreditation as part of the Jamaican team and was not supposed to have any more contact with the athletes,” she said in a statement on Facebook.
She said the decision to demote her comes after she had supported the team “beyond the call of duty”, getting sponsors and equipment and even rented a sled at the German track of Winterberg for the athletes to take to Pyeongchang and compete in.
“Naturally I cannot accept to be treated the way I have been treated,” she said.
“I still do not know the reasons behind the decision of Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation and certainly will not allow to be used as the puppet on a string by the federation which have also saved a lot of money due to my commitment and contacts.”
The acrimonious split was certainly not part of the script that has captured global attention as the Jamaican women have been inextricably linked with their men’s team’s appearance at the 1988 Games, which inspired the successful movie “Cool Runnings”.
Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and Carrie Russell will become Jamaica’s first female Winter Olympians next week. Training begins on Saturday with the opening heats on Tuesday.
“Fact is that I have not abandoned the team but have chosen not to continue due to the unacceptable conditions offered by the federation without any explanation and which would have forced me to sacrifice my reputation and my professionalism,” Kiriasis said.
(This story has been refiled to fix typo in headline)
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)