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Jamaican Legend Says Olympic Opportunity Was Too Good to MissSalem-News.com
‘Let’s do this again today and see who wins’ - Devon Harris
(SALEM, Ore.) - Jamaican bobsled legend Devon Harris says the opportunity to compete at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary was simply too good to turn down.
Immortalized by the Hollywood film Cool Runnings, Harris and his teammates embarked on one of the most improbable sporting journeys in history.
Inspired by witnessing a pushcart derby, Americans George Fitch and William Maloney came up with the bizarre idea of entering a Jamaican team at the Calgary Games.
After being rejected by the summer Olympic team, the pair turned to the military to look for speedy athletes who were unafraid of challenge.
During a recent interview, Harris told Betway he overcame his initial negativity about the idea to realize this was his chance to compete on the biggest stage.
“I had Olympic aspirations and had hoped to compete in the ’84 games in Los Angeles,” said Harris.
“I was a middle-distance runner and my idol was Lord Sebastian Coe.
“But when my Colonel told me that these guys had approached me for bobsled trials – geez, I switched. I didn’t know how I was going to make the team, but I just knew I had to.
“I honestly don’t think he expected me to do it. If I didn’t want to, all I had to do was turn up and go through the motions, but I’m not wired that way man.
“It was all hands on deck, a total commitment. Once we got selected, the question wasn’t whether we were going to go to the Olympics, but how we were going to do it.
“We had to make this thing happen.”
One of the biggest hurdles Harris and his teammates had to overcome was training for a high-profile winter sport on a tropical island.
While they were able to work on the fitness side of things in their homeland, this could not prepare them for the prospect of hurtling down a bobsled track at high speed.
The team travelled to North America in 1987 to get their first true experience of bobsled, visiting Lake Placid and Calgary to get a feel for the challenges that lay ahead.
After undertaking further training in Innsbruck, the Jamaican team returned to Lake Placid to put the finishing touches to the preparations for the Games.
The efforts paid off, as they shocked the sporting world by finishing ahead of Australia and Portugal in their first run at Calgary.
They also posted a faster time than the Portuguese team in the second run, before crashing spectacularly on their third trip down the track. Although that ended their hopes in the competition, Harris believes that the team proved they deserved to be at the Winter Olympics.
“The most difficult part of bobsledding in my mind was believing that you could,” Harris added.
“But the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was my fear of speed and height. I was scared to death, man.
“You just have to keep going down the track, there is no other way. You have to stare death in the face and go, ‘Let’s do this again today and see who wins’.
“You become a little bit more comfortable every time.”
Harris went on to compete at the Winter Olympics in 1992 and 1998, and now works as a motivational speaker and writer.
Source: Salem-News.com Special Features Dept.
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