A former DJ will become the first skier to represent Jamaica at the Winter Olympics next month.
Benjamin Alexander only started the sport in 2016 and does not have a full-time coach. But he managed to qualify for Beijing after finishing seventh in the giant slalom at the Cape Verde National Ski Championships on January 12.
The 38-year-old, who grew up in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire but has a Jamaican father, will be the first alpine skier – and the 15th athlete in history – to compete for Jamaica at the Winter Games.
He says his unlikely story is partly inspired by the legendary 1988 bobsled team – who were the first Jamaicans in history to compete in the Winter Olympics – before collapsing and finishing last.
They were made into cult heroes by the 1993 movie Cool Runnings.
Asked what he thought of his participation, Mr Alexander told Sky News: “It’s amazing.
“The biggest emotion I have right now is relief. I put my whole life into this, my savings, my reputation, absolutely everything. It took me 200% of everything to get here.”
Two-year plan to reach the Olympic standard
Two years ago, the engineering graduate decided to make a plan to “achieve the Olympic standard piece by piece”.
He says he has skied 450 days in the past two years, unable to practice more due to the pandemic.
“I undertook this full-fledged project in March 2020,” he said. “So a lot of my fight and struggle has been with the pandemic – not being able to get into the southern hemisphere to train in their winter and losing months and months of competitions due to them being cancelled. “
Although he never lived there, Mr Alexander was able to spend four months in Jamaica when he was stranded in the Caribbean when the pandemic broke out in March 2020.
There he was able to “learn more about the island” and appreciate the “cool factor” associated with him at the Games.
“The greatest joy at the Olympics is always for the host country, but the second greatest joy is always for Jamaica,” he said.
Skier cites Cool Runnings as inspiration
When asked if Cool Runnings had influenced him, he replied, “If it hadn’t been for this movie and my friends making jokes about me like Cool Runnings, I don’t think this plan would have been concocted.”
And on his hopes of victory, he added: “I don’t want to take anything away from people who started as young as two years old.
“My story is all about getting involved and hopefully inspiring the next generation of Jamaican kids to start before they turn 32.”
The Beijing Winter Olympics begin on February 4.