Debunking Movie Myths: The Jamaican Bobsled Team

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IMay 12, 2008

Any movie based on a true story usually has its "Hollywood" scenes added so the movie appeals to a mass audience. Many times the truth to the "true" story is stretched and many parts of the movie are fabricated.

Walt Disney Pictures takes stretching the truth to an all new level with its movie Cool Runnings.

IMBD says "[Cool Runnings was] based on the true story of the First Jamaican bobsled team trying to make it to the winter olympics." 

This is hardly the case. The Jamaican Bobsled Team's real journey to the Olympics only serves as a minor inspiration or guidelines to the plot of Cool Runnings

Most people who know the story of Cool Runnings remember the early scene of Junior Bevil taking out two other sprinters in an Olympic qualifying heat. That didn't happen.

What really happened: Two Americans George Finch and William Maloney knew sprinters would make the best starters for bobsledding. What better place to find sprinters than in Jamaica, a country the two men had family and business connections to.

The problem they ran into in Jamaica was they couldn't garner any support from any of the nation's best sprinters; instead, they looked to the Jamaican military. There they found their bobsledders. 

In the movie, Junior sells his car, and Sanka and Derice raise money at a kissing booth to fund the trip to Calgary. That also didn't happen.

What really happened: As mentioned before, two Americans with lots of money funded the team. Money was never an issue for the Jamaican Bobsled Team.

In the movie, The team trained in pushcarts and had little experience heading into the Olympics. Most likely didn't happen.

What really happened: The team practiced their push-start in a pushcart on a flat surface on a military base in Jamaica. The team headed to Calgary months in advance to begin training on a real track and in a real sleigh. Eventually, they traveled to Austria to compete in a few minor events before the Olympics.

In the movie, the bobsledding community hates the Jamaicans at first. It's not until the very end when the Jamaicans show what the Olympics are truly about that the world opens its arms to them.

The team crashes just meters from the finish line, but they are determined to finish the race. The quartet carries the sleigh the remaining distance across the finish line. This is half true, half false.

What really happened: The bobsledding community loved the fact that the Jamaicans were competing in the Winter Olympics. They graciously welcomed them and one team even provided them with a back up sleigh so the Jamaicans could qualify for the Olympics.

In the actual race, the Jamaicans did crash, but unlike in the movie where a technical error causes the crash, driver's error in all likelihood caused the crash in real life. 

Since 1988, the Jamaican bobsled team has continued to improve as a team. In 1994, they finished 14th ahead of both American teams, the Russians, and the French. The Jamaicans took home the gold medal in the 2001 World Push Championships.