In an exclusive Q+A with Betway Insider, Jamaican former Olympic bobsledder Devon Harris talks about his experiences representing his country at the Winter Olympics and tells all about his time representing his country in Calgary, Albertville, and Nagano.
He asserted he is over the moon about the Jamaican bobsled Team Performance at the Beijing Games. He is also very proud that Jamaica has qualifiedand is exceptional to continue the legacy. He felt that it would be awesome to see the black, green, and gold in Beijing; although it’s always tricky to say how they’re going to perform, they would work hard and going to compete hard.
On being asked about the experience of spending a long time away from home while training, he said being young and single and disengaged, so it’s an adventure, and he saw Bobsledding as an extension of his commitment to being a soldier and representing his nation. They did whatever was needed to be done and approached it almost like a military commitment. Nothing is too complex or complicated but always inspired to get it done.
While sharing his experience on the closeness with the rest of the team, he said he knew none of them and was very new in the army. He was the youngest soldier on that team and didn’t meet until the bobsledding trials. When he got selected for the team, they got more familiar. They got as close as they could imagine three guys in the army were given the rank structure. He mentioned very perfectly that Dudley Stokes was a captain, a lieutenant, and Michael White was a private. It was an interesting dynamic. When they were traveling for Bobsledding, they were on a first-name basis. When they returned to Jamaica, he called Dudley sir, and Michael called him sir and saluted.
While talking about the most significant difficulties that the team faced, he said they were none when assessing outside of learning the sport for him. He was not in any fear of speed and height. They were always cold, hungry, and scraping to get by. He remembered when one day in Calgary, it was freezing, and they had a tough day of training. All he could afford for dinner was one small can of soda, a roll, and a chicken leg. George Fitch came up with the idea for the team. It was such a novel idea that sponsors would come overflowing in once the word came out. It didn’t happen.
Jamaican people thought nothing about the team as most people didn’t even know that Jamaica had a bobsled team. It’s something that was so far out of the norms for Jamaicans; most of them didn’t even know what Bobsledding was. It was until after the Olympics that Jamaicans thought about them. They were very, very kind to them after the Games, surprisingly. As Jamaicans, they have been nurtured on excellence in the Olympic Games.
He overwhelmingly remembered the change in Reception after going back to the Winter Olympics twice. The
’88 experience overshadowed everything; it just had such a powerful impact. People were always excited to see Jamaica at the Winter Olympics, in Jamaica, and around the world, but it’s going to yield a Jamaican team to win a medal at the Winter Olympics to beat the impact of the ’88 team.
His favorite Olympic experience was related to Calgary as it was the first time and just a fantastic experience, but Albertville was memorable too because that was the first time he drove. Nagano was the most problematic one to qualify for.
When asked about the preference between two-man or four-man sleds, he compared the question – which of your children do you love the most? He asserted that he had driven the four-man before and excitedly stated that there’s hardly anything that feels better, and it was a fantastic experience.
In Winterberg, Germany, the four-person sled was heavier and far more responsive, and it just went precisely where he wanted it to go. It was just an amazing, fantastic feeling. Although admittedly, he got a little cocky on the first day and crashed because he was full of himself, as mentioned by him, that he was like – ‘I’m so good at this, then boom!’ The worst part was he spent the evening repairing the sled instead of comforting or relaxing. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the funding to allow him to compete at the Olympics in it.
When he was questioned about the setting targets to perform, he asserted that they wanted to be in the top 10 in the beginning because that’s the one thing they had control over. They may not have had the best slides, but they knew how to run, so the aim was to apply their raw athletic ability to the game.
Devon Harris said that the favorite thing with bobsled experience was that he had to distinguish between the bobsled experience and the Olympic experience. His favorite thing about the bobsled experience was driving and facing his fear of dealing with it and coming out on top. The Olympic experience described it as Utopia. It’s spending 16 days in a place with people from all over the world. The people of this number, you would never meet under normal circumstances. Having all the troubles and ills that exist in the world, just being shielded from it, and just having a chance at that moment in those 16 days to connect with the humanity of people from all over the world. He realized that the differences that define them are insignificant compared to all the things that bind them.
Feel about Cool Runnings: Then and now.
He got reminded of having a conversation with his teammates, where they held their collective breaths and then collectively exhaled because there was no portrayal of smoking weed in the movie. That’s a stereotype that they have been fighting ever since the team got started because everybody assumed that all Jamaicans smoke weed, and they don’t. They got inspired. Cool Runnings is the kind of movie he would enjoy even if it weren’t about a significant part of his life. He loved it and still loves the human-interest story and powerful life lessons.