SOCHI, RUSSIA -- The Jamaican bobsled team, which is competing in the Winter Games for the first time in a dozen years, is looking to capture some of the "Cool Runnings" magic that enshrined the Caribbean nation's legacy in the sport.
“That movie opened such a wide way for the generation that comes,” said Winston Watts, the 47-year old Jamaican driver of the team, who entered the sport right around the time the movie came out in 1993. “We really appreciate that, and we’re looking forward to another 'Cool Runnings' 2, so that’s what we’re working on now.”
Watts wasn’t on the "Cool Runnings" team from 1988, but he embraces the legacy, and his story is an extension of the former team's narrative. After qualifying a two-man sled for the 2014 games in Sochi, the team had no money to reach the Olympics.
But the team’s story quickly picked up steam in the media, and donations started pouring in. Between various crowd-funding efforts, the team took in more than $150,000 – enough to cover costs and equipment upgrades.
For Watts and teammate Marvin Dixon, it has been a wild few weeks.
“Oh my goodness, man. It's unreal,” he said after arriving in Sochi.
Watts is something of a rock star here in Sochi; people greet him constantly when he walks around the Olympic Village. But he’s also humble.
“I wouldn’t say rock star,” Watts said. “I’m from a poor family, so I try not to think that I’m above people, because when you think you’re a rock star, you walk around like a macho man. I’m not like that. I walk around like a normal person, like everyone else. That’s why people love us.”
The famous movie helps, too. Ironically, it’s partly responsible for bobsledding’s popularity -- even other competitors admit it.
“Like everybody else, Cool Runnings was my history class in the sport of bobsledding,” said Team USA women’s team member Aja Evans.
“I actually grew up with that movie, so it’s a classic. I love it,” said Steven Holcomb of the U.S. team.
It’s a memorable story, but even with the heart-warming elements of "Cool Runnings" and his welcoming personality, Watts wants to create that sequel – a more serious one.
“I want more people knowing that Jamaica's not here as bunch of jokers,” he said. “We're a serious contender just like the Russians, the Germans, the Americans just to name a few.”