Jamaican bobsleigh team 1988 and the movie Cool Runnings: All you need to know

How much of Cool Runnings is true? Did the Jamaican bobsleigh team really crash? Has the Jamaican bobsleigh team ever won a Winter Olympic medal? Answers to those questions and more.

By Ed Knowles
Picture by 1988 Getty Images

The first appearance of the Jamaican bobsleigh team remains one of the most iconic moments in the history of the Olympic Games.

The true story inspired the 1993 movie ‘Cool Runnings’ starring the late actor John Candy.

Since then, Jamaica has been represented at six Olympic Games in bobsleigh.

The legacy of what started in 1998 remains in the global consciousness.

Here are answers to five of the most popular questions about the team.

How much of Cool Runnings is true?

Barely anything to do with the story in the film Cool Runnings actually happened in real life.

According to one of the founding members of the team, Dudley ‘Tal’ Stokes, the writing team took a few liberties with real events.

“It's a feature Disney film, not much in it actually happened in real life,” Stokes said at an ‘Ask Me Anything’ event on Reddit.

The film remains one of the highest-grossing sports comedies in history and, although director Jon Turteltaub played fast and loose with the facts, he tried to retain the essence of what made the team great.

“We just kept refining the true story to make it into a better movie,” Turteltaub said.

“We would never get away today with the changes we made to the true story.”

Some things were kept.

“The feeling is the same. The tone is the same. The ambition is the same. The absurdity was the same. And the main key events were the same.”

Most of the other things– the song, the egg, the coach, the qualification process, the names of those involved, etc – were not the same.

The Jamaican bobsleigh team competing at Calgary 1988
Picture by 1988 Getty Images

Did the Jamaican bobsleigh team really crash?

One thing that movie does depict and did happen at the Olympic Games in Calgary was the crash.

Bobsleigh at the Olympics has four runs. The crash happened on the third run, meaning the team couldn’t complete their final run.

It’s one of the moments that is true in essence in Cool Runnings but most intricacies are inaccurate.

For example, the team did not pick up their sleigh and carry it over the line. Instead, they walked next to it.

The film suggests that it was a mechanical fault but, in reality, it was excess speed combined with driver inexperience that caused the crash.

The Jamaican bobsleigh team did crash at the Olympics but some of the details differ to that of Cool Runnings the movie
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

What place did the Jamaican bobsleigh team get in 1988?

Jamaica entered two bobsleigh teams at the Olympics in 1988.

Dudley ‘Tal’ Stokes and Michael White in the two-man with Devon Harris and last-minute replacement Chris Stokes joining them for the four-man.

Chris is Tal’s brother who was initially just there to watch.

The crash meant the team received a ‘Did Not Finish’ result.

According to Olympic.org – the pair finished in 31st place.

Jamaica also entered a two-man team to the 1988 Olympic Games

Has the Jamaican bobsleigh team ever won a medal?

As of yet though, Jamaica have not won an Olympic medal in bobsleigh.

The team has become legendary with the film fuelling goodwill and funding for future entries.

At PyeongChang 2018, a women’s team made their first appearance.

What are the members of the 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team doing now?

Dudley ‘Tal’ Stokes and Devon Harris are public speakers. Tal is also on Twitter.

Michael White has kept a low profile with Chris Stokes now the president of the Jamaican Bobsleigh Team Federation.


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