Winston Watts

Jamaica Bobsled given $120,000 over 2 days, shuts down crowd funding


Jamaica Bobsled pleaded for $80,000. It received more than $120,000 in two days, enough to move forward with its plans not only to compete in the Sochi Olympics, but also grow the sport on the island nation.

Financial goals were met, and crowd funding was stopped Tuesday, officials said.

The Jamaica Olympic Association and Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee will cover their costs to, from and during the Games in February.

The $120,000-plus will go to pay outstanding expenses from the current bobsled season, cover costs associated with a pre-Olympic training camp in the U.S. and to purchase better equipment for Sochi.

“On behalf of the team we are very happy with the contributions, donations that companies and fans out there contributed to us,” Jamaica bobsled driver Winston Watts said. “This helps us to exceed and get the equipment that we really need over in Sochi so that we can be more competitive along with the rest of the world.”

Jamaica Bobsled general secretary Chris Stokes, a member of the “Cool Runnings” 1988 Olympic Team, affirmed the legacy of that team from 26 years ago helped their fundraising efforts.

The donations, from as little as $5 into the thousands, mostly came from the U.S., Canada, western Europe and Australia.

“The truth of the matter is we missed the last two Olympic Games,” Stokes said. “When it became known to the world that we had a chance to qualify for the current one, people in the thousands came out.

“The popularity of the movie is important, but I think most importantly people relate to Jamaica Bobsled and what it means. … They related to their own lives. They asked themslves, ‘What can be my Jamaica Bobsled moment?'”

Watts, 46, will make his fourth Olympic appearance and first since 2002 and feels confident given the public backing.

“They have a trust in us because they know that Jamaica, we have some of the best athletes in the world,” said Watts, who lives in Wyoming and trains in Park City, Utah. “They want to see us dominate this winter sport also. It’s a big trust that they have. That’s why they put so much funding out there to help and support us.”

Jamaican officials plan to thank contributors with an emblem of appreciation.

Watts was one of the final drivers to qualify for the Olympic two-man bobsled field, which can include no more than 30 sleds. Jamaica’s best Olympic bobsled finish since it debuted in 1988 was 14th in the four-man event in 1994, when it beat the top U.S. sled by .01 of a second.

The Olympic two-man event is Feb. 16-17.

As for after Sochi, Stokes said the goal is to field a women’s team, a junior team and to be able to qualify for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

“It’s well known what the Jamaican team is capable of,” Watts said. “That’s why we’re going out there, to show the world that we’re still alive and we can still execute this sport.”

Jamaican Bobsled Team makes rounds at Sundance Film Festival

Two Italian cities discuss possible Winter Olympic bid

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ROME (AP) — Milan and Turin are in discussions with the Italian Olympic Committee about a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino sent a letter of interest to CONI on Sunday despite divisions in her own party, the populist 5-Star Movement, on a candidacy. Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala met with CONI president Giovanni Malago on Monday.

“I think Milan has everything required but we won’t do anything without a government and its approval,” Sala said Tuesday.

Italy awaits a new government in the next few weeks following a national election this month that yielded no clear majority.

CONI is still recovering from its dropped Rome bid for the 2024 Summer Games, which ended following staunch opposition from Mayor Virginia Raggi, who also represents the 5-Star Movement.

Among the cities which have shown preliminary interest for 2026: Calgary, Canada; Sion, Switzerland; and Sapporo, Japan.

Turin hosted the Winter Games in 2006. The 2026 host will be decided by the International Olympic Committee in Milan in September 2019.

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Nathan Chen no longer grasping for gold going into world champs

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Nathan Chen is arguably a bigger favorite at this week’s world championships than going into the Olympics, but Chen learned from his frightening PyeongChang experience not to think in those terms.

“I don’t want to dwell so much on medals like I did at the Games,” Chen said last week. “That was one of the biggest things that sort of screwed me up at the Olympics. … I was so hell-bent on that, on really the gold. It ended up just making me scared. It made me really nervous and didn’t give me the confidence I needed.”

Chen arrived in PyeongChang last month undefeated for the season. His first two skates in South Korea resulted in the two worst short program scores of his senior international career.

The 18-year-old nailed his last performance, a personal-best free skate as the first man to land five clean quadruple jumps at an Olympics. The highest program score in the field by nearly nine points. Chen moved from 17th place to fifth, confirming his place among the sport’s big-stage performers.

Then two of those icons — Olympic gold and bronze medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez — withdrew from this week’s world championships in Milan.

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“Honestly, I was a little disappointed that Yuzu pulled [out of worlds],” Chen said (Hanyu cited a right ankle injury that kept him out of competition from November until the Olympics). “Obviously, he needs to get healthy. I don’t know what his future entails, but I wanted to have him there. It really ups the ante of the competition. Everyone definitely feels his presence and Javi’s presence.”

Chen spent the last week of the Olympics in Seoul with family members. He said he took maybe one day off from training after flying home to Southern California.

His coolest post-Olympic experience: attending NBA games, such as Cavaliers-Clippers with a backstage pass to watch players exit. And being shown on the jumbotron.

What Chen has not done in the last month is watch full video of his Olympic performances. Just jump compilations from his free skate. Nothing from either of the short programs.

“But I know exactly what it felt like,” he said. “I don’t really want to go back and review it since I know within myself what it felt like, but, again, if I find the need to some day go back and remember it, I think it’s a good resource.”

Chen is expected to challenge Japan’s Shoma Uno (Olympic silver medalist) and China’s Jin Boyang (2016 and 2017 World bronze medalist) for the world title.

Chen said last week that he plans two quads in his short program (Lutz and flip) and, depending on how the short goes, five in his free skate (six, which he attempted at the Olympics with one messy landing, “is pushing it a little bit.”).

Chen faces a decision after worlds. He applied to “six or seven” colleges — mostly California schools, but two on the East Coast — and, as of last week, had not heard back from any.

He plans to continue competing next season under Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutyunyan regardless of which school he chooses.

“Applications were mostly just for the purpose of trying to get into the colleges,” he said. “Once I hear back from them, I’ll figure out logistics and see how I’ll balance them both [school and skating].”

No American has won a world title since ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2013, marking the nation’s longest drought in 42 years. Chen can end it. What an end it would be to his season as well.

“It would be incredible,” Chen said, “but I still have a lot of worlds ahead of me.”

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