Now, of course, we all love Disney movies, and honestly, the movie about the Jamaican bobsled is, to put it mildly, a beautiful story, but in reality, the movie was what we might call embellished a bit. The events that actually took place were very different from the film, and in fact, it may not have been the compelling story that moviegoers saw on the silver screen in 1993.
In the movie Cool race, it was portrayed that the team was just some humble, happy-go-lucky chaps hanging out and someone asked them to do their country a favor and form an Olympic bobsled team.
For that matter, they were not even track stars as the film was portrayed. They were members of the Jamaican army who, as it were, were under orders.
The film is portrayed John Candy as the lone person who cheered the team on and encouraged them to form a team when in fact there were two gentlemen, George Finch and William Maloney. The two were fans of another activity, push cart racing. They thought it would transfer well to bobsledding and got the bright idea for the Jamaicans to form a team for the Winter Olympics.
They tried to recruit sports athletes, but no one wanted to be a part of it. This was when they approached the Jamaican army and recruitment began.
Training was conducted in Lake Placid, NY, and the newly formed team was coached by one person from the United States and another from Austria. The two trainers taught the soldiers how to bob.
As one of the real team members puts it, he saw bobsledding once in 1987, and in 1988 he competed in the Olympics.
In the film, the team was portrayed as being ostracized, avoided by the other bobsled teams and mostly seen as a downright joke.
This could not be further from the truth.
The team was actually warmly received by the Olympic community. In fact, the team was extremely popular at the Olympics. So popular was the team afraid to leave Olympic Village for fear they would be bullied by fans’ legions.
Given these actual differences, it was still not easy to compete. The bobsled team used borrowed equipment, which subsequently fell apart on the first day of driving. The team also suffered the injury of a team member.
When the team was caught under the sledge, they did not lift it triumphantly over their heads and carried it to the finish line as seen in the film. They pushed the bobsled to the end of the track and then lifted it to carry it away.
While the facts and the film were not the same, most of us expect film studios to take liberties to create a more compelling story. This is especially true when it comes to inspirational stories.
So while it is true that the film that depicts the story of the Jamaican bobsled team is short on facts, the bottom line is that the team continued. They were under a lot of control and they were facing adversity.
Not only did they achieve a great feat by going to the Winter Olympics to compete in a sport in which they do not normally participate in their home country, but they continue to compete in the sport. And it’s a real life inspiration.