Jamaican bobsleigh team training at University of Bath to fine-tune their preparations for Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games
Pilot Shanwayne Stephens and brakemen Nimroy Turgott, Ashley Watson and Matthew Wekpe have been honing their all-important start on the UK’s only outdoor push-start track, based on the University campus, and have also been working out in the Team Bath Gym & Fitness Centre.
Jamaica will contest the four-man event at next month’s Olympic Games for the first time since 1998, having famously made their debut at Calgary 1988 in a race which inspired the Disney film Cool Runnings. They have also qualified for the Olympic two-man event for the first time after a string of top-10 finishes during the North American Cup season.
Stephens, a Lance Corporal in the Royal Air Force, is no stranger to the Bath push-start track having previously trained there with the RAF bobsleigh team. He and Turgott made international headlines during lockdown when, unable to train on the push-start track, they instead pushed a car up and down the streets of Peterborough.
“We’ve been here all week and fine-tuning things,” said Stephens. “It’s coming together well but there is always room for improvement so we thought we’d come down, use the great facilities here in Bath and try to refine our technique before we head to Beijing.
“It’s absolutely fantastic to finally be going to Beijing, it’s been four years of hard graft and it’s fantastic to not only be representing ourselves at the Olympics but Jamaica and everyone who loves Cool Runnings as well. We’re going to go and put in the best performance we can.”
Brakeman Watson is also familiar to the Sports Training Village having previously represented the University-based British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association (BBSA) at the World Cup, Europe Cup and Junior World Championships before switching to the Jamaica squad.
“I wouldn’t want to go to an Olympic Games unless we’re going for gold – we want medals,” he said. “The best Jamaica has previously done at the Olympics is 14th, so we’re aiming to improve on that and inspire the next generation of Jamaican athletes.”
Speaking about the global appeal that the Jamaican bobsleigh crew has, Wepke added: “Everyone loves Cool Runnings and it’s great to have that support and love. We are a small nation and we want to show athletes that no matter where you come from, you can achieve. We’re going to the Games!”
Turgott added: “We’re not just there to participate, we are there to compete and show the rest of the world what Jamaica can achieve in winter sports.”
The athletes were joined at their training camp by Mark Silva, Technical Director of the Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (JBSF) and also Development Manager for British Bobsleigh.
The unique push-start track at the University has been the springboard to success for a host of world-class sportspeople since it was built 20 years ago following a successful bid by Team Bath for National Lottery funding.
Eight medals have been won by BBSA athletes representing Team GB during that time, seven in skeleton – Alex Coomber (bronze, Salt Lake City 2002), Shelley Rudman (silver, Turin 2006), Amy Williams (gold, Vancouver 2010), Lizzy Yarnold (gold, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018), Laura Deas and Dom Parsons (both bronze, PyeongChang 2018). John Jackson, Stuart Benson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon also won four-man bobsleigh bronze at Sochi 2014.
Deas is among 10 members of the current BBSA squad to have been selected for Beijing 2022, which start on Friday 3rd February. She is joined by debutants Brogan Crowley, Matt Weston and Marcus Wyatt in the skeleton, while Brad Hall, Mica McNeill, Greg Cackett, Montell Douglas, Nick Gleeson and Taylor Lawrence will contest the bobsleigh, with Ben Simons and Adele Nicoll travelling as reserves.
Visit teambath.com/Beijing2022 for more information and teambath.com/bobsleigh to find out more about bobsleigh at the University of Bath.