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

Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

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Simone Biles announces new coach

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When Simone Biles begins her comeback in earnest next month, she’ll be training under a new coach — Laurent Landi — who coached one of her Olympic teammates, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Landi, a 39-year-old former French gymnast, guided Rio uneven bars silver medalist Madison Kocian at the Dallas-area gym WOGA, along with wife Cecile.

“[Landi] was in Dallas, which is not far away, and had recently left WOGA, and I had worked with alongside him and know how he is with athletes,” Biles said, according to the newspaper. “He does a good job not letting pressure get to the athletes. You can see some coaches get stressed but he doesn’t.”

Biles’ previous coach since she was 7, Aimee Boorman, left their Houston-area gym for a gymnastics job in Florida after the Rio Games.

Biles said last week she plans to return to full-time training Nov. 1 and return to competition next summer.

Kocian is now at UCLA and uncertain to return to elite gymnastics.

Two other Final Five members — Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez — have said they plan to return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But neither has announced a return to the gym like Biles.

The last member — 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas — has not said whether she will come back.

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