A former DJ will become the first skier ever to represent Jamaica at the Winter Olympics next month.
Benjamin Alexander only took up the sport in 2016 and does not have a full-time coach. But he managed to qualify for Beijing after finishing seventh in the giant slalom at the Cape Verde National Ski Championships on 12 January.
The 38-year-old, who grew up in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire but has a Jamaican father, will be the first alpine skier – and the 15th athlete in history – to compete for Jamaica at the winter Games.
He says his unlikely story is partly inspired by the legendary 1988 bobsleigh team – who were the first Jamaicans in history to take part in the Winter Olympics – before crashing out and finishing last.
They were transformed into cult heroes by the 1993 film Cool Runnings.
Asked how he felt about taking part, Mr Alexander told Sky News: “It feels amazing.
“The biggest emotion I have right now is relief. I have put my entire life into this, my savings, my reputation, absolutely everything. It’s taken 200% of my all to get here.”
Two-year plan to get to Olympic standard
Two years ago the engineering graduate decided to make a plan to “get to Olympic standard piece by piece”.
He says he has skied on 450 days of the past two years, unable to practice more due to the pandemic.
“I took on this project as a full endeavour in March 2020,” he said. “So a big part of my fight and struggle has been against the pandemic – not being able to get into the southern hemisphere to train during their winter and losing months and months of competitions due to them being cancelled.”
Although he has never lived there, Mr Alexander was able to spend four months in Jamaica when he got stuck in the Caribbean as the pandemic broke out in March 2020.
There he was able to “learn more about the island” and appreciate the “cool factor” associated with it at the Games.
“The biggest cheer at the Olympics is always for the host country, but the second biggest cheer is always for Jamaica,” he said.
Skier cites Cool Runnings as an inspiration
Asked if Cool Runnings had influenced him, he replied: “Had it not been for that movie and my friends making jokes about me being like Cool Runnings I don’t think this plan would have been concocted.”
And on his hopes of winning, he added: “I don’t want to take anything away from the people who started from the age of two.
“My story is all about participation and hopefully inspiring the next generation of Jamaican children to start earlier than 32.”
The Beijing Winter Olympics begins on 4 February.