Winston Watts

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

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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

Ragan Smith delivers in first U.S. championship title win

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ragan Smith embraced the role of heavy favorite coming into the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Thrust into the spotlight for the first time in her career, the 17-year-old hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. Smith pulled away from the field to claim her first national title Sunday, posting a score of 115.250, more than three points clear of Jordan Chiles in second place and Riley McCusker in third.

Smith opened up a 1.3-point lead over McCusker in the opening round Friday but admitted afterward she wasn’t particularly impressed by her own performance. She was considerably sharper less than 48 hours later, her 57.850 total in the finals was the best in the 16-woman all-around field by nearly two points.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the 2016 Olympic cycle, serving as an alternate for the “Final Five” team that won half of the available medals in Rio de Janeiro last fall. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez are taking breaks or have moved on, leaving Smith as the standard bearer for new national team coordinator Valeri Liukin.

The program appears to be in solid hands. Smith ditched “The Addams Family” themed floor routine she used last year for something a little more mature. It’s not the only part of her gymnastics that has grown up. Smith finished first on floor and beam and tied for third on bars.

Smith will be in the mix for the all-around title at the world championships in Montreal, where she’ll have a chance to extend the U.S.’s dominance. An American woman has won the world or Olympic title each of the last six years. Barring injury, Smith should be right there.

Liukin said he wasn’t alarmed following an uneven performance by the field in preliminaries, calling it a positive step for a group lacking in experience. The gymnastics were markedly improved in the finals.

Chiles slipped by McCusker into second thanks to a fabulous save on beam in which she turned a near disaster into something decidedly artful.

Chiles was in the middle of “wolf turn” (basically spinning on one foot while in a crouch on a 4-inch wide piece of wood) when she nearly fell over. Instead she rose to her feet, kept rotating, and went right into the next part of her routine as if it was planned all along.

Chiles’ steadiness gives Liukin another option as he tries to put together the rest of the four-woman team that will join Smith in Montreal. McCusker, only recently recovered from foot and wrist injuries, tried to keep the heat on Smith but stepped out of bounds following the last tumbling pass on her floor routine. McCusker finished first on bars — her legs practically magnetized together as she went from bar to bar — to win the event with ease.

Ashton Locklear, like Smith an alternate last summer, wound up second on bars with a watered down routine as he makes her way back from her own injury issues and should have time to install upgrades before Montreal.

Whoever heads to Canada in October will go with the usual expectations for what has become the sport’s most dominant program.

MORE: Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles has competed in the six previous U.S. National Championships, winning the last four, but in Anaheim this year, she’s watching from the sidelines. Biles won four gold medals (team, all-around, vault and floor) and one bronze (on beam) last summer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

This week she revealed she has returned to the gym to prepare for a yet to be determined event, in her return to competition.

When asked how she’s been doing in the gym by NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce, Biles responded with her signature smile accompanied by an endearingly bashful eye roll, “the beginning is…OK.”

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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