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Being a Jamaican bobsledder is still cool, even at Sochi Olympics

SOCHI, Russia — The Jamaican bobsled team won't reach the podium here unless nearly everyone else gets lost on the way to the track Sunday.

But if there were a competition for the most popular team in the Caucasus Mountains, they'd be a lock for gold.

Making their first Olympic appearance since 2002, the Jamaican bobsled team has enjoyed rock-star status here. Giddy volunteers clap when they walk by, reporters line up for interviews and fellow Olympians continually ask them to pose for pictures.

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U.S. bobsled brakeman Lolo Jones — one of the biggest names here — posted a video of an American teammate having a dance-off with one of the Jamaicans last week. Other athletes have acknowledged using a meet-up app called "Tinder" to track the team.

"Just wanna match with the Jamaican bobsled team," snowboarder Rebecca Torr of New Zealand tweeted before the Games began.

The team's popularity largely stems from "Cool Runnings," the 1993 Disney movie that is loosely based on Jamaica's 1988 Olympic bobsled team. Thanks to its long shelf-life on cable, many of the English-speaking athletes here clearly consider the film a childhood staple.

U.S. bobsledder Aja Evans, for example, first learned about the sport from watching "Cool Runnings" as a child. Now she is considered one of the top brakemen in the world.

"All the people here like us," said Winston Watts, who will pilot the Jamaican sled. "No, that's not correct. I should say all the people here love us. We are a caring people and we love them too."

sstclair@tribune.com

Twitter: @stacystclair

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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