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Black Athletes Emerge at Winter Games

Posted February. 21, 2006 02:59,   


The 1998 Calgary Winter Olympics featured something extraordinary: a Jamaican bobsled team. Not only was the presence of these Caribbean Islanders in a winter Olympiad ironic, but their second-hand sled also added to the humor. They ended up carrying their sled—which broke down during the race—across the finish line as the crowd, emotionally moved, cheered them on. A 14-year-old Jamaican boy was watching this on TV and began to dream about someday going to the winter Olympics and winning a medal.

The moving story of the Jamaican bobsled team was made into a motion picture, “Cool Runnings,” in 1993. The movie has become a reality at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, starring 32-year-old Lascelles Brown, a Jamaican-born Canadian who got his Canadian citizenship just one month before the Olympics.

Brown and his partner, Pierre Lueders, won the silver medal after scoring a four-run time of three minutes, 43.59 seconds, 0.21 seconds off the record held by Germany.

Brown had participated in international winter events as a member of the Jamaican national team from 1999 to 2004. After finishing a disappointing 28th at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Brown moved to Canada to train. He got married there and became a naturalized citizen of Canada. However, Brown’s native country Jamaica did not participate in this year’s Olympics.

Embracing his teammate Lueders, Brown burst into tears. “It was Jamaica that led me into bobsledding. Back there, my partners and I had to travel to other countries just to train, but in Canada, there was no need,” Brown said.

In Sunday’s 1,000m men’s speed-skating final, Shani Davis of the U.S. became the first black athlete to win a gold medal in a winter Olympics singles event. Counting Canada’s bobsledding silver medalist Brown and America’s Vonetta Flowers, an African-American who will attempt her second consecutive women’s bobsled event win after medalling at Salt Lake City in 2002, the rise of black athletes in the Torino Winter Olympics is exiting to watch.

Sung-Kyu Kim kimsk@donga.com