PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 20 (Reuters) - The Jamaican women’s bobsleigh team made their Winter Olympic debut on Tuesday, thirty years after the country’s first appearance at the Games in Calgary.
Pilot Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and brakewoman Carrie Russel finished their first run in 17th place out of 20 sleds after recording the 10th quickest starting time.
There will be another run later on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday when the medals will be decided.
The Jamaican duo had faced unwanted distractions ahead of the competition when their German coach Sandra Kiriasis quit suddenly last week.
For a while, it looked like they would not even have a sled until Heineken’s Red Stripe beer offered to buy the one they had been using and put them back in contention.
Fenlator-Victorian told Reuters she had been listening to Jamaican reggae artist Chronixx in training to “keep the vibes light and heady” ahead of Tuesday’s race.
The presence of the Jamaicans revived memories of their men’s bobsleigh team in Calgary in 1988, an unlikely story which inspired the 1993 film “Cool Runnings”.
Jamaica is home to the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, and raw pace also matters in bobsleigh, which begins with a short and explosive sprint to get the sled up to speed.
U.S.-based Nigerians Seun Adigun and Akuoma Omeoga, both track athletes, were also making their Winter Olympic debut as the first African country to compete in bobsleigh at the Games.
“Any time we see another African country we embrace them,” brakewoman Omeoga said after the pair’s last training run.
“Each person we see, we’re like, ‘Let me hug you’, because we know it’s not easy to get here and we know the things we had to do to get here”.
The Pyeongchang event was almost a sellout, organisers said, with 6,592 tickets sold.
Topping the timesheets was America’s Elana Meyers Taylor, who won the silver medal in Sochi four years ago.
Canadian pilot Kaillie Humphries and brakewoman Heather Moyse won gold in Sochi but are now competing in separate sleds. They finished the first run in fifth and seventh places. (Reporting by James Pearson, editing by Ed Osmond)