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What Cool Runnings Gets Wrong About The Real-Life Jamaican Bobsled Team

"Cool Runnings" has been a winning film since first sliding into movie theaters in 1993. It begins with sprinter Derice Bannock's (Leon) disqualification from the Summer Olympics following an injury, but he's determined to compete and helps assemble Jamaica's first bobsled team, which is coached by former Olympian Irv Blitzer (John Candy). The film is inspired by the country's first foray into bobsled competition in the Winter Olympics in 1988, but one team member says the movie holds more fiction than fact.

Dudley "Tal" Stokes shared his experience as the team's captain and driver on the subreddit r/IAmA. This includes the real journey, which did not begin with a track injury. "I got into bobsledding because I was told to go. I was in the Army at the time. The colonel made the suggestion to me and because I was a captain, you do as [you're] told and obey orders," he said under the username u/JamaicaBobsledTS, adding that other Army members were recruited. As for the push to send Jamaica down the track, Stokes said Americans George Fitch and William Maloney encouraged the team's creation upon realizing the similarities between bobsledding and pushcart racing.

Blitzer is a fixture of the film, but Stokes said the team worked with a few coaches, including American bobsledder Howard Siler, who competed in the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. While the team is treated as outsiders in the film, Fitch told ESPN that the fictional reception is in stark contrast to what actually happened, noting that they received a warm welcome at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. And the film has since been addressed by another generation of Jamaica's bobsledding team.

The Cool Runnings Easter egg planted by a member of Jamaica's 2022 bobsled team

"Cool Runnings" is not only driven by story but also by memorable characters, like John Candy's Irv Blitzer, who ESPN notes is loosely inspired by George Fitch, and Sanka Coffie (Doug E. Doug), the egg-touting brakeman who is unsure about adapting to the cold. Dudley "Tal" Stokes wrote on the subreddit r/IAmA that while the film is largely fictional, it has helped Jamaica's bobsledding program.

The movie even inspired Matthew Wekpe, a member of the 2022 Jamaican bobsled team who could be spotted with a plastic egg. That year also marked the country's return to the four-man bobsled competition in the Winter Olympics for the first time since 1998. In response to the film's popularity, the 2022 team recorded a song that they shared during an interview with NBC Sports, which includes lyrics in reference to their team being much more than a movie plot.

As for how the 1988 team's story became a big-screen inspiration, Stokes toldĀ CNN Sports that the idea started with Fitch. As for the comedy presented in the film, he noted that it was something that was also felt in real life. "It was started with what, you know, was really a comedy. A lot of what we did at first was comedic. But then over the years, we really became competitors and operated at the very highest level. And that was a journey in itself," he said.