Jamaican bobsled team arrives to warm welcome 

First training runs will be in Calgary, not Whistler

By Clare Ogilvie and Jesse Ferreras

Fast, fast, fast.

And that is just the way the Jamaican bobsled team wants the 2010 sliding track to be.

“I really like the speed, it is very exciting,” said Hannukkah Wallace, the team’s driver, as he walked the track during his first visit to Whistler this week.

“I have heard that it is really fast so I need to get a lot of runs on it.”

The team was hoping to get some ice time this week — they wanted about 15 minutes a day. But it was unlikely, said Craig Lehto, director of the Whistler Sliding Centre.

“No, there is no plans for that,” he said.

“There are plans for them to have access to the track during the international training week in January.”

Said team coach Devon Harris: “We would rather stay here, but if we can’t get the ice time then Calgary will be the place to go.”

The $106 million track already has a reputation for being the fastest in the world, with bobsleds reaching 148 km/hr on its 16 curves.

Earlier the team poured over a map of the track searching for Corner 13, nicknamed the 5:45 during homologation as several teams crashed there at exactly that time of the day.

The Jamaican team garnered global attention during the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games when they came out of nowhere to become the darling of the event. The sliders captured Canada’s heart when they crashed spectacularly near the end of the race and then carried their sled across the finish line. Their story was immortalized in the Disney film Cool Runnings, which played in the background as the team visited the track house at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Harris, who is traveling with the team and was captain of the 1988 team, hopes for a different kind of fame in 2010.

“I now have a chance to help them do what I couldn’t do in Calgary, which is to win a medal,” he said.

After stories ran in The Province chronicling the team’s desire to make the Whistler area their long-term base of operations, the hamlet of Pemberton decided to adopt the team, providing accommodation, food, and transportation.

“Their brand recognition is global and it is a very positive thing,” said Pemberton resident Ian Porter, who is offering the team free accommodation at his Copperdome Lodge and spearheaded the town’s decision to adopt the Jamaican bobsled team.

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