Following in the footsteps of the Jamaican bobsled team, which competed at the Winter Olympics some 30 years ago and became famous through the 1993 movie, “Cool Runnings,” a group of Jamaican expatriates hopes to introduce an entirely new winter sport to the snow-and-ice-free island.
Jamaica has become a member of the World Curling Federation (WCF), which allows the country to compete in international curling events. With membership in the global organization, the promoters of curling are hoping it will make the sport better known in Jamaica and that more athletes on the island will be attracted to participate in it.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Ben Kong, the president of Curling Jamaica, noted that the bobsled team “broke the ice” for Jamaica in terms of its acceptance as a participant in any sport, even a winter sport.
The sport of curling has enjoyed a boost as more people watch the Olympics on TV and began to love the quirky matches, which involve sweeping the ice with a broom, lots of shouting, and a chess-like strategy. Since the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, the WCF has given recognition to curling federations in the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Bolivia, Turkmenistan, India and Kuwait. Jamaica is the first country to join the WCF since the Beijing Olympics; it is the third member from the Caribbean.
There are few athletes of color who participate in the sport of curling. Cristiene Hall-Teravainen, technical director of Curling Jamaica, moved to Winnipeg in Canada when she was six years old. She took up curling in Canada and saw just one other person of color – a Russian – in curling competitions. But now, the WCF is moving to become more inclusive and promoting the sport worldwide, she noted, which encourages more minorities to play and love the sport.
Kong only started curling about ten years ago, but then began to dream of developing a Jamaican curling team. Since 1988 when the Jamaican bobsled team made its debut on the world stage at the Winter Olympics, Jamaicans have competed in every Winter Olympics except in Turin in 2006. The first Jamaican, Benjamin Alexander, competed in the giant slalom at the Games in 2006.
Kong has thus far found nine women and five men to compete in curling for Jamaica. Twelve of them live in Canada and two in the US, with most of them having dual citizenship. Hall-Teravainen is the most experienced of the women as she competed in the senior provincial championships in Canada. She plans to be the anchor of a Jamaican team that hopes to compete in the World Mixed Championships in Aberdeen, Scotland, in October 2022. Only one of the men has played competitively, so the men’s team needs some development, said Kong.
Photo – Jamaica Curling Team