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‘Hot runnings’ for Jamaica’s basketballers

Published:Tuesday | November 23, 2021 | 12:09 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
National basketball coordinator Rick Turner during a training session at the National Stadium last month.
National basketball coordinator Rick Turner during a training session at the National Stadium last month.
The team from Jamaica, JAM-1, piloted by Winston Watts and accompanied by brakeman Marvin Dixon, start their third run during the men’s two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The team from Jamaica, JAM-1, piloted by Winston Watts and accompanied by brakeman Marvin Dixon, start their third run during the men’s two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
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JAMAICA’S TEAM to the recent Americup 3x3 Basketball Championship has been likened to the famous Jamaica bobsleigh team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The comparison was made in a story on the International Basketball Federation (FIVB) website, FIVB basketball, during the tournament played two weeks ago in Miami, Florida.

“Odds are you are familiar with the four Jamaicans who made it from the streets of Kingston to the 1988 Winter Olympics in bobsleigh. Thirty-three years later, another group of four is working on a ‘Hot runnings’ version of Cool Runnings under the sun of Miami at the FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup, with the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics in mind,” the article began.

Head coach and national coordinator Rick Turner saw how people could draw parallels between the team that reached the Americup men’s quarter-finals and the 1988 pioneers.

“It is true that whenever I talk to people about being involved with Jamaica basketball, almost every single time, the bobsleigh team comes up,” Turner told reporters in Miami, host city of the event.

‘FLYING UNDER THE RADAR’

“I think we’re similar in that we are not talked about,” he continued. “We’re flying under the radar, and when we get a chance to show the world what we can do, good things will happen. I hope a John Candy-esque person is not cast in my role. I hope someone more like Matthew McConaughey or Bradley Cooper. I think we have a great story, and maybe that will be part two of Cool Runnings.”

Comedian John Candy played the coach who worked with the Jamaican team in the Winter Olympics in 1988.

Turner hopes the fine performance in Miami will be a first step for Jamaica to Paris and the 2024 Olympics.

“When I first took this position at Jamaica Basketball, I wanted to create a touchstone that people could relate to immediately and we thought that Paris 2024 would be that touchstone and tried to hashtag #Paris2024 in everything we did and make it something that we could work towards, a goal that is up there for us. The great thing about 3x3 is, it allows countries with not as much funding to be involved and compete at a high level along with the big boys, who have the resources,” he told FIVB basketball.

“When you get a chance to play for something so special, such as the Olympics, it increases the awareness, which hopefully increases the funding and the resources,” he envisaged.

Jamaica actually entered two bobsleigh teams at the Olympics in 1988. Dudley ‘Tal’ Stokes and Michael White in the two-man, with Devon Harris and last-minute replacement Chris Stokes. The coach was Howard Siler, a 1972 and 1980 Olympic bobsledder for the United States.