Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about the Olympics and Olympians and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Olympic urban legends featured so far.
OLYMPIC URBAN LEGEND: The Jamaican bobsled team carried their sled to the finish line after a crash.
The 1993 film, Cool Runnings, brought a lot of attention to the bobsled team from the tiny island nation of Jamaica.
However much attention and popularity it might have brought the team, it also brought with it a lot of inaccuracies surrounding the Jamaican bobsled team and what happened to them during the 1988 Winter Olympics.
First off, a minor misconception that the film perpetuates is that the international bobsled community had a problem with the Jamaican team at the 1988 Winter Olympics (sort of like how the ski jumping community DID have a problem with Eddie Edwards, as noted in this legend).
While it is true that the Fédération International de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT) did greet them a bit coldly when they first announced the idea of competing in 1987, by the actual Winter Olympics themselves, the response was much warmer. You could argue that it is perhaps because there was a bit of a big media push, so that they were treated as a bit of a novelty and that the good will extended towards them might be considered a tad disingenuous. But whatever the motivation, the team was welcomed to the community with open arms at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Other countries helped with their training and their equipment (most notably the United States and Austria).
Secondly, the film showed the team getting a lot farther than they did in actuality. In the film, they make it all the way to the finals, challenging a world record, even! In reality, while they did improve throughout the games and did impress many people with their fast starts (which were balanced out by their inexperience in actually driving the sled once they got started), they were not really in any medal contention.
And perhaps the most notable scene in the movie was not true to life, which is a shame, because the real life event was pretty darn notable itself!
In the film, the team crashed during the finals and then picked up their sled and carried it across the finish line.
In reality, the team crashed during one of their four runs (thus disqualifying them) and then walked alongside the sled as it was pushed to the finish line. It was still a pretty cool moment, just not the drama shown in the film.
Here’s a YouTube clip of the crash, courtesy of the Olympics themselves (it looks like you’ll have to actually click on the link to watch it – they won’t let me embed the video here. Which is fair enough, I suppose)…
The Jamaican bobsled team competed at the next two Winter Olympics, with some success (no medals, though), but failed to qualify for the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics.
The legend is…
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