In the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, a bobsled team from Jamaica took the world by surprise: It was the first time anyone from the warm, Caribbean island—or anywhere like it—had competed in the sport. Despite a heartbreaking crash in the event, the team earned respect from the international bobsled community and went on to compete in the 1992 and 1994 Olympics, as well.
The team’s story was loosely captured in Disney’s Cool Runnings—a film that inspired young people around the world. Among the film’s many fans was Jamiacan Michael Williams. Now, 22 years later, Williams is pursuing his dream to ski at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Although Williams, now 44, had a successful career playing and coaching professional American football in Europe, he couldn’t shake his desire to compete on the slopes.
The final push for him was watching Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong of Ghana and Errol Kerr of Jamaica compete in ski events at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. It was then that Michaels picked up the phone and called the Jamaican Ski Federation. Then, he drove to the indoor ski slope near his home in Frankfurt, Germany. His first task: Learn how to ski.
Although Williams had no experience, one of the local coaches liked Williams’ attitude and agreed to work with him.
Despite his enthusiasm, Williams faces a monumental—and perhaps impossible—task. He’ll need to lower his 763-point average down to 140 by January 2014 to have a chance of qualifying for the Olympic Games. His best finish this season was 43rd out of 45 finishers at a competition in Austria in February. In the world championships event a day later, Williams did not even qualify for the final race.
Williams currently trains for eight hours a day—skiing for four and working on technique and conditioning during the rest. In an interview with CNN, Williams described how it would feel to represent Jamaica in Sochi.
"It would be incredible," he said. "I think the moment you walk into the stadium with all the other athletes and you're holding up your flag ... to me, it's incredible.”