Benjamin Alexander hopes to follow in the footsteps of the Jamaican Bobsled team, a pioneering group of unlikely winter sports athletes, who 34 years ago defied all odds and competed at the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics.
Alexander, 38, believes he can qualify for the Beijing Olympic giant slalom under the International Olympic Committee’s B criteria, which is supported by the International Ski Federation (FIS) and encourages and offers some leniency for athletes from varied nations to compete at the Games. The IOC permits each country to put one male and one female athlete forward under the B criteria, providing the athletes can demonstrate a certain level of professionalism.
“The new FIS president Johan Eliasch has made it clear that the diversity among small nations is something that he is very keen to help and support,” Alexander says.
With less than a month until the Beijing Games open on Feb. 4, Alexander realizes that his chances to qualify are headed right down to the wire. He has been slowed by a case of COVID-19 and mild temperatures across Europe, resulting in insufficient snow conditions for races.
“I’m fully recovered from COVID – I had about nine or 10 days off of skis which didn’t help and I’m currently facing warm temperatures as a hurdle,” Alexander tells Ski Racing Media. “But we have been able to organize the next series of national championships and there are a few more races left to go. I’m feeling quietly confident, but we have like 10 more days so all will be revealed soon.”
Alexander, the son of a Jamaican father and English mother, skied for the first time about six years ago during a trip to Whistler, Canada, back when he was a spinning records as a globe trotting DJ.
The dual Jamaican and United Kingdom citizen brainstormed and set the lofty bar to pursue the Olympics in March 2020, after a positive experience attending the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games as a spectator.
Originally from Northamptonshire, U.K., Alexander has spent considerable time skiing and attempting to get up to race speed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and throughout Austria. He has kept fit during the pandemic, pursuing yet another new hobby, backcountry skiing in the Tetons.
Pursuing the dream with the help of the ski racing community
In 2021, Alexander enrolled for two months in the Schild Skiracing camp on Kitzsteinhorn Glacier over the warmer months and also trained for roughly a month in Hintertux.
In his pursuit of what may seem like an outlandish Olympic dream, Alexander informs that he has received wide-ranging support and encouragement from the greater ski community. He has skied with Steven Nyman and his wife Charlotte Moats, trained with five-time Olympian Sarah Schleper and received tips after racing a dual GS against 1994 Olympic downhill champion Tommy Moe.
Alexander has also attended a Mahre brothers racing camp in Mt. Hood, and hiked and skied with a group on the Grand Teton in Jackson that included U.S. downhill racer Breezy Johnson.
“The beautiful thing about the ski industry is that everyone has been so warm and helpful,” Alexander says. “Almost everyone that I’ve come in contact with my story ends up helping out and that’s partly because of my persistence and tenacity.”
Alexander currently receives gear and is sponsored by Atomic skis, Leki poles and Stio, a winter sports apparel outfitter in Jackson Hole.
The aspiring Olympic ski racer, who holds an engineering degree from studies in London, is strategically calculating his course, and despite cancellations of FIS races in the Czech Republic and Slovakia that he was planning to attend, still has other options.
“It is a highly subjective measure – the yardstick is dependent upon the guy who wins and how good that person is,” Alexander says, about obtaining the necessary FIS points for Olympic qualification. “What is obviously different at my level, basic FIS level as opposed to World Cup, is that the penalty of the race is highly dependent upon the guys who are in the race.”
Alexander says that he has a top result roughly 2.4 seconds shy of Olympic qualification with the clock ticking.
“It is going to be close, but it is an outlandish task that I still believe is possible, but it has been made ever that harder because of the pandemic,” Alexander said.
He remains optimistic, yet realistic.
“I was naïve enough to think that skiing was just about going fast.
“Going really fast on the icy conditions that we are required to do and going around the gates that are put in the most annoying places possible is a completely different kind of ball of wax.
“It is incredibly technical,” Alexander says. “I’m going to have to get lucky at a couple of races.”
Inspiring future Jamaican ski racers
Alexander emphasizes that even if he is comes up short qualifying for the Games, he plans to remain active in ski racing and hopes to encourage young athletes from the more than two million Jamaicans living abroad in the U.S., U.K, and Canada, to pursue skiing or snowboarding.
“I hope that I can encourage my diaspora to have their children pick up skis or a snowboard and maybe in a generation’s time or in two Olympics from now, we can have a bunch more Jamaicans represented,” Alexander says.
“I’ve actually identified the next athletes who will be of age to race FIS and represent Jamaica for the 2026 Games and I hope to maintain my involvement with the Jamaican Ski Federation, whatever my own outcome is