SPEEDY Benjamin Alexander hopes to enjoy his own Cool Runnings moment — after becoming Jamaica’s first-ever Olympic alpine skier.
The British-born ex-international DJ last week qualified for a spot at next month’s Beijing Winter Games, in the prestigious Giant Slalom event.
What started out as a pipe dream, when he first tried the sport in February 2016, will turn into reality when he takes to the Chinese slopes.
Inspiration came from the 1993 cult film Cool Runnings, which was based on Dudley Stokes, 59, and his crew defying the odds to qualify for the 1988 Calgary Games— even though their sled spectacularly crashed in competition.
And he can thank mentor Stokes — the pilot of that famous Jamaican bobsleigh crew — for his weekly words of encouragement and wisdom.
Alexander said: “Dudley, a dear friend, told me at the start that to get to the Olympics would require lots of determination, the ability to struggle, suffer and persevere.
“I didn’t really pay much attention to his words back then but looking back at the last 18 months that’s what my story is about — adversity. So much has been pandemic-induced.
“I’m going against the grain, for something that takes an incredible amount of time and effort. Some people dismiss this as a gimmick.
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“Dudley has been there, done it, bought the T-shirt and sold the movie rights! It’s great to have him on my team.
"I wished it wasn’t such a complicated thing right now getting into China for the Games. Dudley would definitely be one of the additional support staff.
“I can’t wait to meet him in person in February in the UK. We’ve spent hours on Zoom, TV shows and phone calls.”
To get to this point, it has cost Alexander over £74,000 but he hopes to recoup money back through sponsors.
Where the top skiers will have the choice of 20 pairs of skis, Alexander will have just a handful at his disposal.
Various races this term were cancelled due to the pandemic and last month the 38-year-old thought his dreams were over when he got Covid.
Alexander added: “You can test positive on a PCR for months after having Covid. I thought that was the nail in the coffin. I was off skis for ten days, which was a nightmare as there were only 24 days left to qualify.
“If we had spoken on Christmas Day, I’d have been the most depressed person ever. I didn’t think it would get over the finish line. I thought it was slipping away from me.”
Snow and skis were the furthest thing from his formative years while growing up in the Northamptonshire market town of Wellingborough.
His mum was born in White City in West London and Alexander’s Jamaican dad is a retired bus driver.
His paternal grandfather came to the UK as part of the Windrush generation and worked for a period as a Harrods doorman.
After a stint in finance restless soul Alexander ended up mixing DJ sets in more than 30 countries, including Thailand, Ibiza and at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada Desert.
Alexander, who has been praised by the Jamaican Prime Minister, hopes his story will help unearth future Winter Olympics talent from the beautiful Caribbean island.
Post-Beijing he will ski purely for recreation and focus on completing an Ironman Triathlon before his 40th birthday.
Alexander said: “I’m like that bird at the start of the pack that takes on the headwind, so other guys behind get a slightly easier ride.
"If you look at my results, I’m pretty good of not blowing up or crashing.
“There is no pressure. I’ll finish 20 seconds behind the winner. But my gold medal is already in the bag, especially if I carry the flag at the opening ceremony.”
“My message is you can do it. If I can start skiing at 32 and get to the Olympics six years later, then a 40 or 50-year-old can at least have ski lessons and have some fun.
“In life, the outlandish can actually happen, the crazy story can take place. The random underdog guy is sometimes more interesting.
“And compared to finance and Djing, the most celibate time in my life was during skiing. Now I’m a skier and dedicated to the snow. I’m in bed by 10pm every evening!”
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