In 1988, Jamaica’s bobsled team defied the odds and became the first from the Caribbean island nation to compete at the Winter Olympics, inspiring the iconic film “Cool Runnings” and encouraging people around the world to follow their dreams, no matter the challenges. Now, Jamaica will be represented at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, with its first alpine skier.
The aspiring alpine ski racer, Benjamin Alexander, 38, qualified for the Olympic giant slalom (an alpine skiing and alpine snowboarding discipline) under the B criteria established by the International Olympic Committee. Under this criteria, every country is allowed to enter one B-criteria athlete. The qualification is supported by the International Ski Federation (FIS) to encourage athletes from as many countries as possible to compete at the Olympic Games in as many different disciplines as possible. Alexander turned in his qualifying performance at the inaugural Cape Verde National Ski Championships, which were held in Liechtenstein. Alexander’s effort to qualify began early in 2019, and he has overcome numerous obstacles on his way to qualification, including having a positive COVID test over the 2021 Christmas holidays that threatened to end his attempt, as did warm temperatures across Europe that limited the amount of snow available for races.
Alexander explained the qualification procedure by noting that any athlete attempting to qualify under the B criteria must show a high level of professionalism, but they are unlikely to compete for a medal. He said it wasn’t easy, but it is not like attempting to get onto the American, Swiss, or Austrian ski teams, competitors who are “playing in a different ballpark,” he said. However, he added that his motivation has changed over the period in which he tried to qualify.
In the beginning, Alexander said that his qualification was a “selfish pursuit,” but after the George Floyd murder, he realized that he had a platform from which to make a positive statement for diversity in winter sports. The attention he gained with his qualification attempt gave him the chance to make a much bigger statement than competing for his own personal status. He notes that he is excited now to be the person who illustrates that no matter what background, socio-economic status, or race, there is a place for you in winter sports. Alexander praised the ski industry for being warm and helpful to him. He is sponsored by and receives his gear from Atomic skis, Leki poles, and Stio, a winter sports apparel firm.
Alexander is originally from Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His father is Jamaican and whose mother is English, has dual Jamaican and UK citizenship. He skied for the first time approximately six years ago on a trip to Whistler, Canada, when he was working as a deejay. He was also inspired by his attendance at the 2018 Winter Games as a spectator. Alexander, who also has a degree in engineering, has skied often in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and in Austria; he has kept up his physical condition during the pandemic by pursuing his hobby of backcountry skiing in Wyoming’s Tetons.
Alexander has spent considerable time skiing and attempting to get up to race speed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and throughout Austria. He has kept fit during the pandemic, pursuing yet another new hobby, backcountry skiing in the Tetons.
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics officially open on February 4th, 2022.