News of Jamaica’s bobsleigh team qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics has quickly traversed the planet, but not to be lost in all the hoopla surrounding Jamaica’s success is the qualification of another Caribbean nation, Trinidad and Tobago.
The “red, white, and black bobsleigh,” as labeled by Brian Lewis, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), is set to return to the Winter Olympics for the first time since 2002.
The country’s absence from the Winter Olympics may have lasted two decades, but bobsleigh pilot Axel Brown has helped lead Trinidad and Tobago back to the prestigious winter sporting event.
Winter Olympic qualification was never a given for the country though, with Brown admitting, “our team didn’t officially exist until August, or kind of be re-established until August.”
The late formation of Trinidad and Tobago’s bobsleigh team ultimately kept them out of the Olympic test event held last fall. However, Brown labeled that “a blessing in disguise” due to the costs incurred by other teams who traveled to Yanqing.
When discussing his thoughts on the Olympic track, he admitted, “I haven’t been to the track, though I’ve seen and heard reports from those that have.”
He explained, “the track is incredibly interesting from a pure bobsleigh perspective. It’s the first track to have a four pressure kriesel…I’m incredibly excited to see how that kind of works.”
“There’s a lot of very interesting corners. They’re very open…which presents its own steering challenges. [The track] doesn’t look particularly hard in terms of getting down safely, but it is a very interesting track in terms of finding out where the speed is because there’s various different elements that nobody’s seen before.”
Speaking on his lack of first hand experience at the track, he added, “it’s not the first time I’ve done this. Several times I’ve raced on tracks that I’ve only seen a week, or so, before. It won’t be my first time,” adding, “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Brown originally took up the sport as a member of the Great Britain bobsleigh program, however, he had the unique opportunity of choosing to race for either Great Britain or Trinidad and Tobago, ultimately choosing to race for the country his mother was born in.
His sporting background is also somewhat uncommon for bobsleigh and Trinidad and Tobago, with Brown previously playing American football before switching to the winter sport.
Nonetheless, Brown is ready to represent Trinidad and Tobago the best he can, stating that his goal is to make the fourth run in Beijing; a feat only accomplished by the best twenty teams in the two-man bobsleigh event.
Lewis spoke highly of Brown, saying, “it’s great that he has taken the bobsleigh program now on his shoulders and is driving it forward.”
He further commented, “his commitment at this point in time is not convenience, people feel ‘well okay, he just discovered a convenient way to get to the Olympics.’ So far that has not been his actions. Instead, he has actually developed a program.”
When asked about comparisons to Cool Runnings, Lewis said, “to be honest, Cool Runnings is Jamaica’s thing. We just focus on Trinidad and Tobago.” He also made sure to credit three-time Olympian, Gregory Sun, with establishing the sport of bobsleigh in Trinidad and Tobago.
In reference to the bobsleigh team qualifying for the Winter Olympics once more, Lewis admitted, “I’m very excited about the prospects.”
On the topic of his country’s participation at the upcoming Winter Olympics, Lewis commented, “I appreciate the fact that in his new year message, Xi Jinping indicated that his government will spare no effort to ensure the safety and the success of the Games. I think that’s an important declaration and affirmation given Omicron.”
The red, white, and black are scheduled to race down the Yanqing track on February 14 and 15. However, they’ll need to get to Beijing first, and that presents its own challenge in the times of Omicron and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Axel Brown even had a reminder of the current global health situation sitting next to him while he fielded questions from the media. He stated, “as we do this, I sit here with a bag of many COVID-19 tests next to us, that we are doing every other day to try and stay clear.”
He added, “we’ve had the luxury of knowing where we stand for quite some time, so we’ve decided to essentially isolate for the three weeks prior, and compete and train in Calgary.”
Summing up the importance of his team’s attendance at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Brown commented, “this is far more important for me, far more important for this team, and important for the nation of Trinidad and Tobago to see themselves represented instead of being just a face in the crowd.”
He concluded, “we’re now able to step out into the opening ceremony with pride, and be the sole representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, so in that respect it’s incredibly important.”