With a flapping visor and a rattling sled which teetered on the brink of overturning, 46-year-old Winston Watts ended Jamaica’s 12-year absence from the Olympic bobsleigh track by careering down into 30th and last place after two heats of the men’s two-man competition at Sanki Cliding Center.
Watts crossed the finish line a full 4.41 seconds behind the leaders, Alexander Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda of Russia, having almost snapped off his helmet visor at the start of his second run in all the excitement.
Watts said: ‘It’s just one of those things, I pulled my visor and with all the adrenaline it just broke and I said, “well, I’m not going to stop now, I’ll show the world I’ve got heart and I’ll take my sled down”.’
Comeback: Jamaica were in bobsleigh action for the first time in 12 years in Sochi on Sunday
Crushed: Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon lie last at the halfway stage of the two-man event
Watts and his brake-man Marvin Dixon had endured a journey to rival that of the Jamaican bobsleigh pioneers immortalised by the film ‘Cool Runnings’ during their unlikely quest to reach the Sochi Games.
Enormous public support enabled them to raise the 80,000 US dollars required to compete, but they missed their connecting flight to Russia and were forced to sit out of the first day of official training runs because they arrived without their luggage.
That support for the pair in the mountains above Rosa Khutor was matched only by cheers for the medal-chasing Russian sleds, and it clearly captured the imagination elsewhere with Usain Bolt tweeting: ‘Loving the Jamaica Bobsleigh team on ice £CoolRunnings £TeamJamaica £FireonIce.’
Watts, who was part of Jamaica’s four-man sleds in 1994 and 1998 before piloting a two-man team in Salt Lake City, shrugged off the inevitable ‘Cool Runnings’ comparisons which came the pair’s way during the clamour in the post-race media mixed zone.
Struggle: The pair had a few wobbles but managed to complete both runs on the opening day
Frontrunners: Russia lead the way, with Alexander Zubkov hoping to add gold to his medal collection
‘Cool Runnings is a very nice movie and it opened such a nice way for us, but a lot of people look at that movie and see us as jokers,” added Watts. “We’re not jokers – we’re serious contenders.
‘This is not an excuse but things didn’t go the way we wanted them to. But we have come here and we have gone out to compete the best we can and to show the world that we’re still alive.’
To make matters worse for the Jamaicans they lost a side bet on start times with British pair Lamin Deen and John Baines, who stand 23rd overnight and have it all to do to secure a top 20 place which will give them a fourth run when the event concludes on Monday.
Deen, whose preparations were hit by the late withdrawal of his regular brake-man Craig Pickering due to injury, said: ‘The first heat wasn’t so bad – it was probably the fastest time we have done down this track.
‘For John and I this is probably the seventh heat we have had together and we have still got timing work to improve on for tomorrow.’
Not the best: Team GB’s Lamin Deen (front) and John Baines lie 21st after the two runs