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‘94 WINTER LILLEHAMMER OLYMPICS : Jamaicans Are Really a Hit Now

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was cool runnings, indeed.

Those slapstick Jamaicans have gone serious.

“The perception created by the movie will take a long time to uncreate, but this is a big step,” driver Dudley Stokes said Sunday after his four-man bobsled team had finished 14th in the Winter Olympics.

The Jamaicans produced the 10th-fastest runs among the field of 34 in both the third and fourth heats and finished one place ahead of Randy Will in USA I and eight places ahead of a sledding power, Italy I, as they graduated to what is considered bobsledding’s elite, the top 15.

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It has been a quick climb from their stumbling debut in the 1988 Olympics and distant finishes of 1992: 25th in two-man and 36th in four-man.

“I guess it’s been a big joke,” said Stokes, a helicopter pilot who has been with the team from the start. “People have had a lot of fun at our expense, but we take it in good spirits and use it as motivation. It’s a real good feeling to do as well as we did here.”

Particularly, he said, to finish ahead of the United States.

“It means a lot,” Stokes said. “I know the American view is still to take us as a joke, which I don’t appreciate.”

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The Jamaicans have spawned a cottage industry of other sun-belt bobsledders--Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico--but their own climb gets tougher from here, Stokes said.

“By Nagano (in Japan, where the 1998 Winter Games will be held), there is no reason we should not be a medal-contending team, but it’s going to be as difficult to get from here to the top as it was to get from the back of the pack to here,” he said.

“It’s going to take money, but I think we’ve shown that you get a return when you place your money with us.”

Stokes and friends will continue to receive residual returns from “Cool Runnings,” having chosen long-term profits rather than an up-front payment.

A sequel?

“After this, we’re open for offers,” he said, laughing.


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