Jamaica not going to race in Olympic bobsled event

Jamaica's bid to have its bobsled team compete in this month's Olympics has come up short.

The list of nations who qualified and entered bobsled events at the Vancouver Games, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, failed to include Jamaica — which had spent the last few weeks hoping that a slot opened in the field.

Those hopes were dashed, and on Wednesday, the Jamaicans acknowledged that all chance for 2010 was gone.

"We've been in battles for many, many years," Chris Stokes, a founding member of the Jamaican bobsled team more than 20 years ago, told The AP in a phone interview. "This is one more. But it's disappointing, no question about that. The guys worked really hard and did well. Not qualifying, it's by no means a failure. It's a step going forward."

Officials from the Vancouver organizing committee are in the process of certifying those entries. There remains a chance more nations could be added, but for that to happen a sled that has entered must drop out.

The Jamaicans say they're no longer waiting for that to happen.

"I am told there are no other options at this point," team spokesman Stephen Samuels said.

They knew they were long shots to get into the Vancouver Games, but still, the notion of another team from the tiny island nation competing in these Olympics — 22 years after the first Jamaican sled raced in the Calgary Games and sparked the idea for the movie "Cool Runnings" — was enough to create a buzz.

Poorly funded and often racing with substandard equipment, the Jamaicans and driver Hannukkah Wallace managed to just sneak into the world top 50 rankings in four-man sliding, giving the chance of a Vancouver berth life.

In the end, they needed to be a few spots higher.

"If we have to be the last small nation, then so be it," Stokes said. "We'll keep the fight."

Wallace has said he wasn't sure if he'll stay with bobsledding, return to his roots in track, or possibly both. It's not uncommon for bobsledders to take some time off, especially early in a new four-year Olympic cycle.

Stokes said he believes Wallace will try to return and lead the team again.

"This is Hannukkah's third year driving," Stokes said. "People in the sport would say you need five, seven, maybe even 10 years to get to a certain level. Given the timeframe of development that we had, we knew it would be difficult. And one of the challenges we have in Jamaica bobsleigh, while other nations have several drivers coming up, we can afford only one."

The Jamaicans already say they're not abandoning all plans for 2010 — or 2014, for that matter.

As has been planned for months, the team will be at Whistler, if for no other reason than to experience what an Olympics are like, Stokes said.

"It's very important for them to go and see," Stokes said. "They'll remember what the games are like and watch the start line of a four-man Olympic race and feel that adrenaline. I hope it acts as a motivation for them."

And for the Sochi Games of 2014, Jamaica says it's hopeful of adding more sleds, more drivers — and intends to offer a coaching job to retired U.S. bobsled pilot Todd Hays, who saw his career end after a crash earlier this season. Even before retiring, Hays lent the Jamaican federation equipment and expertise.

"There are many things we can, and we will, do to improve our chances," Stokes said.