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

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

MORE: How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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