Jamaica’s debut appearance in the bobsled event at the 1988 Winter Olympics inspired the popular Disney film “Cool Runnings” in 1993. With the country’s return to the Winter Olympics bobsled competition in 2022, there has been some talk about making a sequel, but one of the original founding team members, Dudley ‘Tal’ Stokes, believes there is no need for another “Cool Runnings” film. In an essay for Newsweek magazine, Stokes wrote that, in his personal opinion, the original movie should be “left as it is.” While he believes a sequel should be considered, it would have to tell “the right story” and have a producer with the diverse experience to create something “worthy of the original.” He added that he might make a cameo appearance in a new film if it should be made, but that the original should stand for those who made it: “it’s still being watched every day of the week—let it run.”
Stokes was part of the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988, 1992, 1994, and 1998 Winter Olympics, but for many Disney fans, Jamaica’s participation in the bobsled events will always bring back memories of the film that starred actor John Candy in his final role.
Stokes also wrote that the film has become a cult classic and has a life of its own. He admitted that he did not like the film when it was first released because the real-life experience of Jamaica’s first bobsled team was much tougher and grittier than portrayed in “Cool Runnings,” and it wasn’t much fun.
The 1988 team had many challenges and obstacles to overcome. They had to travel to Main and then to Canada to practice on real ice, and they had to travel to Europe to compete in the qualifying races. The team was always plagued by a lack of money and had to sell t-shirts and sweatshirts in whatever location they found themselves to buy basic necessities. Stokes remembered that they could tell how good their dinner would be in the evening by the number of shirts they sold during the day. Things became better when the Jamaica Tourist Board provided some financial support. Add to all of this that the team didn’t have a four-man sled of its own when it started practice. Once they participated in the real competition, they were ultimately disqualified due to a crash, which ended their 1988 Olympic hopes.
Jamaica’s participation as the first from the country to compete in the Olympic bobsled events did make the team an international sensation, however, and they were given a heroes’ welcome when they returned to the island. The story became an inspiration to others and helped to facilitate a stronger Winter Olympics program for Jamaican athletes over time.
Now, in 2022, Jamaica has qualified for three Olympic bobsled events for the first time – the four-man, two-man, and women’s monobob – and has strong support from its fans around the world and at home.