How Beer Might Just Save the Jamaican Bobsled Team

Team leader and driver Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian of Jamaica corners in the second women's unofficial bobsleigh training session at the Olympic Sliding Centre, ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, in Pyeongchang on February 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mark Ralston

The story of the Jamaican bobsled team has always been an unlikely one—and unsurprisingly, a fan favorite. Everyone loves a Cool Runnings underdog, and the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic bobsled team hailing from the Caribbean island was coming into the games with their own romantic storyline. (The Olympic Channel is set to premiere Far From Home—a mini-documentary detailing Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and Carrie Russell’s unlikely journey in a bobsled from Jamaica to South Korea.) But now, their story is going to have a much different ending than the Hollywood version.

On Thursday, Fenlator-Victorian and Russell’s coach, Sandra Kiriasis, abruptly announced her resignation—less than one week from the official women’s bobsleigh competition. The details of what led to her resignation are unclear, but Kiriasis—a former Olympic gold medalist herself— took to Facebook to detail her departure, writing:

After some distorted facts have appeared in the media concerning my departure as coach of the Jamaican ladies bobsleigh team, I would like to put some things straight. 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, etc. During the preparation for the winter games I have supported the team far beyond the call of duty at all times. For example, I managed to get sponsors and equipment etc. and even rented a bobsled in Winterberg for the competition in Pyeongchang. Naturally, I cannot accept to be treated the way I have been treated. 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. 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. This is the sole reason why I have turned down this change to my role.

By what can be determined from that post and Kiriasis’ point of view, the former coach decided to completely leave the team as opposed to being demoted to a lesser coaching role for the team. But the situation quickly turned into matter of Kiriasis-said, the Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation-said, when JBSF President Christian Stokes told Reuters:

“The lady was a hugely destructive force on the team. Now that she is off the team, synergy is much better, tension is down and athletes are now able to focus in a much healthier environment. We have our High Performance Director Jo Manning and Coach Dudley Stokes, who have been with the team all season and who have been the ones driving performance, so frankly things have only improved with her departure.

“If you come on the team you have to be a team player. There are no Gods and Goddesses here.”

It seems that Kiriasis’ role (or lack thereof) has been resolved, but now a whole new problem has arisen—bobsled custody. On her way out the door, Kiriasis announced that she is taking the team bobsled with her, as it was her contribution to the team.

Her departure may help improve team dynamics, but if there’s no bobsled, then there’s no bobsled team. But that’s where an unlikely hero came to the rescue: beer.

In a tweet sent by Red Stripe early on Friday morning, the Jamaican beer company has offered to put a new bobsled for Fenlator-Victorian and Russell “on their tab.”

And it seems like the duo might just take Red Stripe up on that offer. In their respond to the generous offer, Fenlator-Victorian and Russell asked Red Stripe to contact them—and even left their number.

We can only hope to see a Red Stripe logo on a bobsled on Saturday, when official training begins, and on Tuesday when competitions start. If Fenlator-Victorian and Russell are able to compete, they will officially become Jamaica’s first Winter Olympians. We’ll drink to that.

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