The Winter Olympics have been on my mind (and my TV!) – as a Canadian, the winter ones have always been more special to me than the summer ones.
Zambia is not competing in the 2018 Olympics, though this year is the largest African contingent with eight countries and twelve athletes participating. Today, Canada tied with Germany to take home the gold in the two-man bobsled, and I was reminded of the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games. This was the year when Jamaica sent in a bobsledh team – the true story behind the movie “Cool Runnings”. The team was made up largely of track sprinters (the lore says while recruiting they showed a video of the sport to a group of potential athletes and all of the athletes left the room!). The athletes had a crash course in bobsledding in New York and Austria, where they faced the harsh realities of weather and training.
At the 1988 Olympics, they became a fan favorite because of their status as the ultimate underdog of the games. Not only was there the novelty of having a tropical country compete in a cold-weather sport, but they had very little practice going down a bobsled track before, and they borrowed spare sleds from other countries to compete. In a show of brotherhood, other bobsledders were quick to give them guidance and support. They did not officially finish after losing control of the sled and crashing during one of their four runs. However, they showed significant improvement throughout the games and impressed observers with some fast starts.
This is the ultimate example of achieving the impossible. A team with limited resources, little practice, and no exposure with a sport could work hard, and be good enough to actually make it to the Olympics! It’s amazing! If they can do that, then all of us today can get through our work for the week and accomplish our own goals. All of us can do our part and make some progress towards providing our 4,000 scholars with a top-notch education. Unless of course, any of our Zambian staff is thinking of competing in the ski jump next Winter Games… :)