Jamaica's First Women's Bobsled Team
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The Winter Olympics formally open today in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Among those taking part is the first-ever women's Jamaican bobsled team at the games. They follow in the tracks of the first Jamaican men's bobsled team who competed at the Calgary Games 30 years ago, inspiring a Hollywood movie. "Cool Runnings."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COOL RUNNINGS")
DOUG E. DOUG: (As Sanka Coffie) Feel the rhythm. Feel the rhyme. Get on up. It's bobsled time. Cool runnings.
INSKEEP: All right, Rachel Martin spoke with Jazmine Fenlator, a member of this year's Jamaican women's team. And she says that while the men's team did not win any medals, they did break down barriers.
JAZMINE FENLATOR: In 1988, if you looked at the starting line, you wouldn't find many minorities whatsoever. It was a very European, white-dominated sport. It also was dominated by people with money. If you can get the funding or if you knew people with money, you had the best equipment and could travel and afford to tour. Another stereotype is - if you've never seen snow before or you've never been around snow, how can you bobsleigh? (Laughter) And I think a lot of those cultural differences is what held back quite a few nations from kind of exploring the option.
RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: So how did you get into bobsleigh?
FENLATOR: Great story - I was a track and field athlete at Rider University. It's a small Division 1 school in New Jersey. And so my head coach, Rob Pasquariello at the time, was introduced to the idea of bobsleigh by a colleague of his who thought that I could transition a lot of my skill sets and even grow further to maximize my potential as an athlete after college. He knew of me aspiring to go to the Olympics and my goal was in track and field, but he presented this idea to me. We laughed about it. I did some research. He put an athletic resume to the national team. It was the U.S. national team at the time. And a couple of months later, they called me up for a tryout. That was 2007. And 11 seasons later, still going strong.
MARTIN: You got to compete with Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. This year, you're deciding, though, to compete with Jamaica. What was that decision like?
FENLATOR: For me, it was important. I'm a dual citizen. I'm biracial, so my mom is second generation born in the U.S., her grandmother coming over from Latvia and her background being European. And my dad came to the States in the late '70s, early '80s. So - and it was always important for me to represent both sides. You know, my parents never said I had to choose to be Jamaican or choose to be American. I was just Jamerican (ph)...
FENLATOR: ...In a way. So I have always embraced that. And I think it's extremely important for especially young kids nowadays to see representation - in the big stage, in social media, in sports - of people that look like them, people that are from where they're from, people that have the same background because without that representation, they don't really know that opportunities suit them. They think it's only for people that might be like this and since they're not like that, they can't do it.
MARTIN: You ready to win, Jazmine?
FENLATOR: I'm ready to be amazing. You know, my team and I...
FENLATOR: My team and I have talked about it. We don't really put a number on our performance. It's - right now we feel ready.
MARTIN: Jazmine Fenlator - she is part of Jamaica's historic team, the first female bobsled team. They will be competing in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Jazmine, good luck. We will be watching.
FENLATOR: Thank you so much, Rachel. And thank you to all the fans listening. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.