Jamaican Chris Stokes was one of the original members of the Jamaican Bobsled Team. He on the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jerad Williams
Jamaican Chris Stokes was one of the original members of the Jamaican Bobsled Team. He on the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jerad Williams

Bizarre fame moment for Cool Runnings hero

IT is the classic underdog story that has become immortalised in the passing of time, but a central figure in the Cool Runnings Jamacian bobsleigh tale says he initially defied the fame.

Chris Stokes has not competed for three decades but is being mobbed by fans seeking autographs on the Gold Coast.

The unlikely winter sport hero from the tropics is remembered for his deeds at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, where his blobsled team did not officially finish, and the cult hit movie Cool Runnings released five years later.

However, he says the early fame did not sit well with him.

The Cool Runnings movie has become a cult classic
The Cool Runnings movie has become a cult classic

"At first I thought there are other things I want to do and I want to be known for," said Mr Stokes, who is on the Gold Coast as part of his role as first vice president of the Jamaican Commonwealth Association.

"So many people want to do something extraordinary or something they don't have the confidence to do, so it helps to have hard evidence, a reason to believe.

"And when you look at four guys from Jamaica to take on a very difficult winter sport, have the courage to take it up. And not only take it up, but fail and keep going.

"They want to be a Jamaican bobsleigher in their own life.

"I'm learning to honour that."

Jamaican Chris Stokes is in Surfers Paradise for a book signing at Helm Bar. Picture: Jerad Williams
Jamaican Chris Stokes is in Surfers Paradise for a book signing at Helm Bar. Picture: Jerad Williams

Mr Stokes, joined in Canada in 1988 by Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes and Michael White, said he never expected their inspiring story to be so widely embraced.

"You're in the grind, you're working pursuing your dreams to achieve what you set out and you're certainly not thinking about becoming famous," he said.

"But we didn't even think of how it impacts people's lives. You're trying to self-actualise and do your thing and then one day you realise that means something to other people.

"Then the movie sort of immortalises everything and that means it can continue to mean something from generation to generation."

He admits some of the Cool Runnings plot was fictional but the basis of the movie was accurate.
He admits some of the Cool Runnings plot was fictional but the basis of the movie was accurate.

The film has copped flak over years for being fictionalised, but as Mr Stokes says, it is a Disney film, not a documentary.

"It's a story and it tells a story well.

"There are a couple of things that are added for entertainment, but we were an unlikely group that found a coach who was good but a little disillusioned with the sport.

"We had to go up against an establishment that didn't really want us there.

"We had to learn the sport from scratch and we did try to emulate other folks and we came to understand that we had to do the sport our way.

"All of those things are portrayed in the movie.

The Cool Runnings cast
The Cool Runnings cast

"Rarely do I watch it on purpose, but it comes on so often!" he said, feigning exasperation.

"I'm on a flight and it's on, or Netflix now or the Disney Channel.

"This is cool - it came on in Korean in at the Winter Olympics in Korea. And I'd never seen myself speak Korean before. So that was a new experience."

Even in his role with the Jamaican Commonwealth Games team, Mr Stokes backs the underdog, reminding his team that even though Jamaica is a small country, they are still mighty.

"I have had an opportunity to speak to the athletes, to the management, everyone, to convey a sense of belonging here," he said.

"I know we are from a small island - it's only three million people - but there's nobody here that's better than us and I say that because I really believe it's true.

"I believe that you have it within yourself to make yourself as good as the next guy, or better.

"We give a lot of love and we are accomplished and famous but warm and accommodating and people resonate with that.

"Look at Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the history of the world. He wants to reach out and touch and connect with people.

"We don't want to be held apart, but we want to be a part of mankind and to learn as much about you as you learn about us.

"People respect that and like the Aussies we're quick to laugh but never too far from being serious about something that matters."



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