The Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Coach Suddenly Quit, and She May Take the Bobsled With Her

February 15, 2018, 3:19 PM UTC
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 07: Jazmine Fenlator-Victoria of Jamaica trains during Bobsleigh practice ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Olympic Sliding Centre on February 7, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason—Getty Images

The coach of the Jamaican women’s bobsled team has quit days before the historic team makes its Olympic debut, saying she was “forced out” by the Jamaican Bobsled Federation (JBF). And to retaliate, she’s threatening to take the team’s bobsled with her as she departs.

Sandra Kiriasis, who was the driver coach for the team, has claimed legal ownership of the sled, a stake the JBF disputes. She’s demanding compensation for its use, which the group is refusing to pay. JBF says it has no intention of pulling the team from Olympic competition.

This is the first time Jamaica has sent a women’s bobsledding team to the games. The women’s team debut comes 30 years after the country’s first male team, which served as the inspiration for the movie Cool Runnings. And the battle between Kiriasis and the JBF sounds like it’s something lifted right from a movie script.

Kiriasis, a 2006 Olympic gold medal winner, maintains she was ordered to transition from driving coach to track performance analyst, which would have given her no access to the athletes. She told the BBC she has “never known such disappointment in this sport, in my life.”

The JBF is even more blunt, with president Christian Stokes saying, “The lady was a hugely destructive force on the team. Now that she is off the team, synergy is much better, tension is down, and athletes are now able to focus in a much healthier environment….Frankly, things have only improved with her departure.”

The original Jamaican bobsledding team charmed the world in the 1988 winter games, but became more famous in 1993 when Disney released Cool Runnings, a film starring John Candy, that grossed nearly $69 million (or over $120 million today).