Prime Minister Andrew Holness has congratulated Benjamin Alexander on becoming the first Jamaican skier to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Alexander, who became an internationally renowned DJ who played at major festivals such as Burning Man in the US, created history after he finished seventh in the giant slalom at the Cape Verde national Ski Championships on Wednesday, to book his ticket to Beijing, China with the Jamaican team in February.
According to media reports, the 38-year-old Alexander, who only took up the sport in 2016, does not have a full-time manager. A resident of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England where he grew up, Alexander, qualifies to represent the North Caribbean island because of his Jamaican father. He is only the 15th athlete to represent Jamaica at the Winter Games.
According to a report in the British media, his unlikely story is partly inspired by the legendary 1988 bobsleigh team – who were the first Jamaicans in history to take part in the Winter Olympics – before crashing out and finishing last.
They were transformed into cult heroes by the 1993 film Cool Runnings.
Asked how he felt about taking part, Alexander told Sky News: “It feels amazing.
“The biggest emotion I have right now is relief. I have put my entire life into this, my savings, my reputation, absolutely everything. It’s taken 200 per cent of my all to get here.”
Two years ago the engineering graduate decided to make a plan to “get to Olympic standard piece by piece”.
He said he has skied on 450 days of the past two years, unable to practice more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I took on this project as a full endeavour in March 2020,” he said. “So a big part of my fight and struggle has been against the pandemic – not being able to get into the southern hemisphere to train during their winter and losing months and months of competitions due to them being cancelled.”
Although he has never lived there, Alexander was able to spend four months in Jamaica when he got stuck in the Caribbean as the pandemic broke out in March 2020.
There he was able to “learn more about the island” and appreciate the “cool factor” associated with it at the Games.
“The biggest cheer at the Olympics is always for the host country, but the second biggest cheer is always for Jamaica,” he said.
Asked if Cool Runnings had influenced him, he replied: “Had it not been for that movie and my friends making jokes about me being like Cool Runnings I don’t think this plan would have been concocted.”
And on his hopes of winning, he added: “I don’t want to take anything away from the people who started from the age of two.
“My story is all about participation and hopefully inspiring the next generation of Jamaican children to start earlier than 32.”
The Beijing Winter Olympics begins on February 4.