John Barnes’ dad had unlikely role with Jamaica’s ‘Cool Runnings’ bobsleigh team
Liverpool legend John Barnes revealed his dad Ken laid down the groundwork for the Jamaican bobsleigh team who captured the world's imagination in the 1988 Winter Olympics and inspired iconic Disney film Cool Runnings.
Barnes senior played a pivotal role in the tropical Caribbean nation's Winter Olympic debut in Canada. Despite the fact they not only left Calgary without any medals but also failed to finish as a result of a crash, they returned home as cult heroes and national treasures.
Six years later, their plucky performances and tremendous character was immortalised in the 1994 hit Disney movie, which saw beloved comedy character Nick Candy play the role of coach and former USA bobsleigh star Howard Stiler. However, Barnes recently revealed his father essentially hand-picked the four bobsleighers who would go on to make history for the country.
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"My Dad was an army officer and he came here (England) as a diplomat, but when he was a colonel in the army he used to run all the sports," Barnes said to the Pub Talk podcast. If you've seen the film [Cool Runnings], the real man who John Candy played, had been coming to Jamaica and had this idea. If you've ever watched bobsleighing, it's all about the start, so if you can get a good start, you can win.
"Now, Jamaica have a lot of good sprinters, so his idea was 'we will have Jamaican sprinters and I will teach them how to drive a bobsleigh', but he can't teach them the speed, so he thought if he can get good sprinters, to start off, then he can teach them to drive. He came to my dad and he said, he wants four army officers; there were good sportsmen in the army, to be in the bobsleigh team.
"My dad said, 'well you can't just choose four army officers, you have to have open trials for everybody'." While the idea of top quality Jamaican sprinters projecting a bobsleigh forward at terrifying speed made sense, the freezing cold temperatures of Calgary in contrast to the boiling hot climate of Jamaica made the nation’s appearance in the competition all the more eyebrow raising.
What other iconic Olympics and Winter Olympics teams and athletes stick in your mind? Let us know in the comments section below.
And this geographical reality was not lost on the former Liverpool midfielder's dad, who very quickly came up with a cunning plan to try to circumnavigate any issues. Barnes explained: "He then said 'if you just have open trials for anybody and you just got a normal boy from the street, and he's a good sprinter and he gets into the team, the first time we go to America on winter trials in the snow, he's going to go missing'. And he was right.
"He knew that's what would happen, but he knew that army officers would be disciplined, and wouldn't, so my dad said to him 'you can get four army officers, train them, because they are good sprinters, and then when you have the trials four months later, because they have been training, they should win'. Three of the army officers won, but the fourth one was a normal boy from the street.
"He got into the team, but when they all went away to Canada on training, the fourth boy, they never saw him again, he just went missing." Fortunately for the team, Chris Stokes was very quickly drafted in as an injury time replacement, and Jamaica were able to leave their wonderful, if not gold medal laden, legacy on the competition.
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