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Bobsleigh team has potential to be 'hottest thing on ice'

Anthony Foster, Gleaner Writer

The Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation (JBF) received some well-needed assistance from the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) yesterday. The contribution, US$15,000 from the government agency, which took place at the SDF's Phoenix Avenue headquarters, is to go towards preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Guest speaker, Minister of Sports, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, gave her full support to the team.

"I'm so happy to be here this morning to be a part of the handing over of this money to the team and I know that this team has the potential for being the hottest thing on ice," said Grange.

Ludlow Watts, general manager of SDF, while expressing pleasure to assist the Bobsleigh Federation, said his organisation handed out $191 million to sports associations and government institutions last year.

Although this is a fraction of the US$73,000 needed for the financial year, which ends in April, JBF general secretary, Chris Stokes, was heartened by the quick response from the sports ministry through the SDF.

Stokes pointed out that bobsleigh is the second-most expensive Olympic sport as it is estimated to cost ?4,000 for a set of runners for one sled. Teams normally have three sets of runners per sled.

A new sled could cost upward of US$40,000 before any customisation.

Publicity garnered

He said persons have questioned why Jamaica participates in such an expensive sport, but Stokes pointed out that the publicity Jamaica gets is "... the envy of marketing companies up and down Fifth Avenue in New York ... They want to know how to do it."

The Jamaica bobsleigh team made its debut at the 15th Olympic Winter Games in 1988 in Calgary, where they achieved and have subsequently sustained unprecedented popularity in the Winter Games. The team members - all born and bred Jamaicans - are Hannukkah Wallace (captain and driver), Marvin Dixon (pusher), Joel Alexander (pusher) and Garnett Jones (pusher).