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Re-Viewed: Cool Runnings - feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme...

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"Nuff people say, you know they can't believe
Jamaica we have a bobsled team"


This afternoon, the two-man Jamaican bobsled team of Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon will make their way down the Sliding Centre Sanki course in Sochi, Russia, as part of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Of course, they're not the first. The nation's bobsled team made its debut at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, and five years later their remarkable tale served as the inspiration for one of the finest - and funniest - sports movies ever, Disney's Cool Runnings.

"You mean winter, as in igloos and Eskimos and penguins and ICE?"

Liberties were taken with reality. The truth was stretched thinner than a sledder's Lycra, but that's really not important. The essence of the story and its Olympic soul remained.

After an unfortunate Summer Olympics qualifier, Derice Bannock (Leon) convinces fellow sprinters Junior Bevil (Rawle D Lewis), Yul Brenner (Malik Yoba) to join him and pushchart racer Sanka Coffie (Doug E Doug) to become the first ever Jamaican bobsled team.

Derice bullies American ex-gold medal wining sledder Irv Blitzer (John Candy in one of his last roles) into coaching them. They overcome all the odds to make it to Calgary where they learn, and display, the true meaning of the Olympic spirit.

A still from Cool Runnings

© Rex Features / Moviestore Collection

"Always remember, your bones will not break in a bobsled. No, no, no. They will shatter."


The Odd Foursome are wonderful. The growing camaraderie between the pretty boy, daddy's boy, joking Rasta and baldy misery guts sneaks up on you to the extent that by the team's final run, you feel every bit as invested in it as you would be watching your own countrymen in the real thing.

Despite having its roots in a more dramatic script Blue Maaga, it's properly funny. From Irv's room-clearing showreel of bobsledding mishaps to Sanka's wear-all-the-clothes-at-once collision with winter, director John Turteltaub weaves a constant stream of laughs into the sports narrative.

And it's not just the performances and visual gags. The script is overflowing with great quotes, from the hilarious ("Tallulah! Sounds like a two-dollar hooker! Where you come up with that?" "That's my mother's name") to the heartbreaking ("A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it.")

A still from Cool Runnings

© Rex Features / Moviestore Collection

"If we walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican and IS Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican"


But what really makes Cool Runnings such an ice-cold classic is a bittersweet ending that never fails to get the tears flowing, regardless of whether or not you know what's coming or how many times you've seen it before.

Togetherness, friendship, overcoming adversity and the joy of just taking part. Most sports movies preach these ideals but fall at the final hurdle. With some honourable exceptions, so many insist on a last-gasp, against the odds victory. Strip it down, and they're really just about winning.

Of course you have to try to win in sport - no matter what the odds - otherwise what's the point? To let your fear to fail consume you to the point where you count yourself out before you've begun undermines the very point.

A still from Cool Runnings

© Rex Features / Moviestore Collection

"Cool Runnings means Peace Be The Journey"


But if your obsession with victory blinds you to what it means to compete, no matter where you've come from or what your chances are of victory, then you drain the very soul of what sport is and can be.

Regardless of their what time they clock and whether they're in that sled or carrying it over their shoulders, when Jamaica's Watts and Dixon cross that finish line this afternoon they will have, like the foursome of '88, represented themselves and their team on the biggest stage of their sport. Come first or last, that's always something to applaud. See you in four years, Jamaica.

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