This is part two of an interview with Benjamin Alexander - read part one.
There is a reason why Benjamin Alexander's dream of becoming Jamaica's first Winter Olympic alpine skier keeps being compared to the story of the movie, Cool Runnings - he has a close relationship with the tale.
The former DJ is mentored by Dudley Stokes, the founding member of the Jamaican bobsleigh team that went to four Olympics and whose story was immortalised in the 1993 Disney film.
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"I saw the movie when I was 9 or 10 and it was the coolest thing since sliced bread," he told Eurosport.
"The story would be great if I said I saw this film and there was a direct line - if that was the case, I would have started it off a long time ago.
Because of the notoriety and popularity of that movie, whenever I’m out there skiing people are like ‘Hey Cool Runnings’... It just becomes that joke that’s thrown around all the time.
"At some point after going to the Olympics and realising there were only three Jamaican athletes, I just thought, well let’s see. Had it not been for that movie, no this would not be a thing, there’s no chance."
While the comparisons may feel fairly lazy - and stereotypical - Alexander has chosen to tap into Stokes' knowledge. They speak practically every week, and the impact the bobsleigh veteran has had on the 38-year-old is obvious.
Alexander lives a very different life to the athletes he hopes to be lining up behind on the start gate at Beijing 2022. He has no full-time coach, and has to rely on nuggets from professionals and ex-pros he meets at resorts while training. It is this issue that he recently sought some advice about from Stokes - who turned his situation into a positive.
"Sometimes it’s just good to have a b***h and moan," he said.
I was moaning that I don’t have one coach, one voice, and Dudley being very experienced was like ‘Benji, I didn’t have one coach for six years, I think you’re smart enough to use this to your advantage and take the best pieces of advice from each of the coaches and forget the rest. Create this amalgamation of this collective range of coaches and for someone like you, that’s probably better than one coach’.
"Little things like that, when you feel you’re a ship lost to sea, he just changes the perspective. In life, it’s just about perspective. Little things like this, that’s what Dudley’s great at."
Benjamin Alexander says he wants to inspire the next generation of skiers
Image credit: Other Agency
Alexander admits that when he first took up the challenge of trying to qualify for the Olympics, it was a selfish ambition - but says it has become a project much larger than himself as it has gone on.
"My skiing was atrocious at first, absolutely terrible. I didn’t know what the cost was going to be in terms of the commitment and struggle. I’m not sure if I would have taken it up if I did now," he said.
"But now, because of George Floyd and everything that happened last year, it’s taken on a much greater meaning. How can my skiing inspire other people? Not just Jamaicans, but the first priority is trying to get more into winter sports.
"As crazy as it sounds, there are millions of Jamaicans - or those with heritage - who have access to facilities.
"I think it goes further than that. If I’m able to start a sport at 32 and get to an Olympics at 38, then there is no excuse for anyone - whether they’re 40, 50, 60, to not go out and get some lessons and get some enjoyment out of skiing. It’s not too late."
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The Jamaican Ski Federation, Richard Salm, recently died following a car accident and Alexander talks with genuine emotion when he recounts what he has done for him. He wants to continue that legacy - and hopes his own journey will put him in a strong position to succeed him.
"It was always my vision, when he was ready, to use my experience to figure out how to speak to sponsors, capture media attention, and use that for the next generation of Jamaicans and become the president myself, maybe for a couple of terms.
"I'm still working on that, I can’t be the president and athlete at the same time, so that will have to be a post-Olympics thing."
As for the battle to get to the Games itself, Alexander is closing in on making history. So does he dare to think about what it will all feel like when he gets there?
"It’s probably going to feel like a dream. Going back and researching about Jamaica’s Olympic heritage and the bobsled team," he adds.
"To actually then be in the start gate, or in the Opening Ceremony, it’s probably not going to be feel real."
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