Utah’s Special Connection To The Jamaican Bobsled Team
SALT LAKE CITY — When bobsledding begins in the Winter Olympics, one of the must-see teams is the Jamaican team. And did you know that Utah has a special connection to both the origins of Jamaican bobsledding and the current team in Beijing?
You probably know the box office hit movie “Cool Runnings,” but that movie doesn’t tell the entire story.
“Yeah, I mean, the story’s quite a bit different,” said Pat Brown.
Brown is one of the men responsible for getting the Jamaican program up and running 35 years ago.
“I was walking up the track in Calgary in 1987, and a friend of mine was coaching the team at the time. That’s when I first met the team. We went out that night and he found out that he had to go back to work, and they asked me to take over for the team,” Brown said.
Brown, at 21 years old and with just four years of bobsledding experience, was suddenly given the task of a lifetime.
“Because they had no budget. They had nothing. We were selling t-shirts to pay to eat that night,” Brown said.
As with most Hollywood depictions, some creative liberties were taken with the telling of their story, but not all of it.
“There were a couple scenes that were real personal, you know, when we named the sled,” Brown said. “That actually happened, so that was kind of neat to see that come through in the movie.”
Brown helped coach the team in ’87 and ’88 before returning to Lake Placid.
Several years later, he got a call that brought him to the Wasatch Mountains to become a part of Utah’s Olympic legacy.
“The opening came here, just before the Olympics, to get programs running here. So, I transferred out and liked it so much, I’m not going back.”
He’s still taking his talents all over the world. Brown was hired to coach the bobsled team from Greece in the 2002 Games. Then, he helped start the Korean sledding program that went on to win a Silver medal in 2018 in PyeongChang.
In the meantime, Jamaica had been in a drought in the four-man bobsled, not having qualified for the Games since Nagano in 1998. They needed help, and so, they reconnected with Brown, who helped them get back on the world’s biggest stage.
“It’s been 35 years, so just the tenacity of the Jamaican team and the Jamaican spirit of continuing to stay in a sport that they would never normally be involved in.”
Brown told KSL’s Sam Farnsworth that a top 10 finish in Beijing would be good, but the ultimate goal is to be on the podium within the next 10 years.