KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Jamaica’s beloved bobsled team had to raise money just to get to Russia.
Now they’ve arrived at the Sochi Games — but without their equipment.
The carefree Jamaicans were unable to make their first practice runs Wednesday because their luggage, with the runners for their two-man sled as well as all their sliding gear, was missing.
“The sled is here,” driver Winston Watts said. “But the blades that we put our heart out to get, the airline maybe left them back in New York. None of us have clothing.”
Watts said he and brakeman Marvin Dixon missed their connecting flight in Moscow after being delayed by bad weather in New York. While other competitors got in unofficial training runs on the Sanki Sliding Center track, Watts was on the phone trying to find out what to do next.
If the runners, helmets and sliding suits don’t arrive by Thursday, Watts said the team will borrow from other teams so it can practice.
“I do have a backup plan,” Watts said, trying to make light of a “frustrating” situation. “We do have a lot of guys here that want to help us, so I’m excited to see what’s going to be the outcome tomorrow.”
This isn’t the first hurdle for Jamaica in returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2002. After qualifying for Sochi, the team didn’t have enough money to fund the trip and needed $80,000. With help from donations from around the world, they raised $120,000 in two days.
The 46-year-old Watts, who came out of retirement earlier this season, said he had no choice but to ask for financial support.
“I didn’t have any more money to spend so I decided I would turn to my fans and friends and that’s why we put out that bulletin so we could achieve some funding,” he said.
Until his luggage is found and delivered, Watts doesn’t have any clothes other than the track suit and yellow baseball cap he wore to the track.
Still, he managed to keep smiling, refusing to let the inconvenience ruin his mood.
“There’s no such word to explain how I felt being here,” he said. “The atmosphere, the fans, the friends. It’s pretty exciting. We are the most lovingest people, so every moment is always positive. We always keep smiling. That is our motto.”