— Team Jamaica (@JamaicaOlympics) January 18, 2014
Jamaica has produced one of the premier summer Olympians in history in Usain Bolt. On the other hand, Jamaica and the Winter Olympics seem to go together about as well as Jamaica and, well, anything involving snow.
But in a story that harkens back to one of the most famous Winter Olympics stories, Jamaica's bobsled team has qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Now, the team just has to drum up enough funds to get to Russia. [UPDATE: They did. See below.]
Jamaica's bobsled team hasn't been to the Olympics since 2002. But when all the years of qualifying shook out, when every single mathematical possibility had filtered through, Jamaica had indeed qualified for the Sochi Games for its two-man bobsled team.
There's just one catch: the team needs money. Lots of money.
Bobsled pilot Winston Watts, age 46, is a veteran of three Winter Olympic Games and came out of retirement to return Jamaican bobsleds to the Olympics. Now, he's also leading the fundraising campaign to drum up at least $80,000 to travel to Sochi.
“In truth, we still don’t really know at the moment if we’d even have enough funds or sponsorship to fly to Sochi itself for the Games itself,” Watts told the London Telegraph. “It all depends. Our families need to be taken care of first. If there’s no funding, who knows?"
When Jamaica's first bobsled team exploded into the worldwide consciousness in 1988, American business interests and the Jamaica Olympic Association stepped in to help foot the costs. Those options have, for the moment, dried up, so Watts has taken his cause straight to the virtual streets.
The bobsled team is now pursuing a crowdfunding effort, seeking to harness a few dollars from thousands of people rather than thousands from a few donors. Jamaica has partnered with CrowdTilt to create a crowdfunding site, and as of 11 p.m. ET, the fundraising effort had raised $15,000, with eight days remaining in the campaign.
The first Jamaican bobsled team competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and became a cultural sensation that inspired songs and a 1993 movie, "Cool Runnings," that starred the late John Candy:
Recently, Yahoo Sports spoke with many of the principals involved in the original "Jamaica bobsled" movement, and produced this "Memorable Moments" documentary:
If this year's team is able to pull off the fundraising necessary to get to Sochi, it's a good bet they'll have a cultural impact as well. They may not get a movie made of their exploits, but they'll at least have a new set of stories to tell.
To learn more about the team, and to contribute if you so desire, visit the officially sanctioned fundraising website at CrowdTilt.
UPDATE: Within days, the Jamaican bobsled team had amassed more than enough money to reach Sochi. The CrowdTilt effort hit $122,000 and counting. Another fundraising effort by the indie currency Dogecoin raised $30,000, and an Indiegogo effort raised $40,000.
According to Crowdtilt, money came in from all 50 states and 49 countries. Additional funds not needed for Sochi will be used for future Jamaican bobsled teams.