First, some context: Olympic bobsleds cost a lot of money — tens of thousands of dollars. And teams spend so much time tinkering with their sleighs to make them faster that they sometimes bring multiple sleighs to competition in case one performs better than another on a given track.
And because teams bring multiple sleighs, if something should happen to yours and you don’t have a backup, it’s pretty tough to find another one, let alone one that’s as fast.
All of that makes what happened to Jamaica’s bobsled team a harrowing tale.
When Sandra Kiriasis suddenly quit during these Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea (which is very far away from Jamaica), she insisted that she had the rights to the team’s sleigh.
Jamaica rented a sleigh for the Games from a club in Winterberg, Germany, team spokeswoman Kathleen Pulito told The Washington Post. But Kiriasis signed the lease and thus claimed the sleigh when she left the team.
Jamaica argued that Kiriasis’s contention was moot because she rented the sleigh on behalf of Jamaica — “Sandra was working as an agent of Jamaica,” Pulito said — but that still left the team without a bobsled, even if it was technically right.
From afar, Red Stripe, the Jamaican brewing company, was watching the saga unfold and quickly capture the Internet. The company’s human resources director phoned the marketing team, company spokesman Bjorn Trowery said, who then drafted a message that made all of Twitter stop and stare.
“Some of the best ideas start out as a crazy ‘what if?’ ” Trowery wrote to The Post in an email. “We did some initial research to understand the cost of a bobsled. As you can imagine, they’re not on Amazon, which made things trickier.
“Once we felt comfortable with the cost and were assured we were staying legally OK given Rule 40 [the Olympic rule that prohibits athlete marketing during the Games] guidelines, I drafted the tweet, we hit send and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.”
Turns out, Trowery was right. Sleighs cost a lot of money. This one was 40,000 euros (almost $50,000), Trowery confirmed. The company wired the money to the Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation on Friday.
“My expense report this month will include a bobsleigh on it,” Trowery said.
The catch? It wasn’t actually a new sleigh. Jamaica just bought the sleigh outright.
“Now we have title of the bobsled and we are very grateful to them,” Pulito said.
All that is great, but it might not do much to help the Jamaican women’s team, which has some uphill — ahem — sledding ahead in the actual event. Sochi medalists Elana Meyers Taylor (silver) and Jamie Greubel Poser (bronze), both of the United States, are the likely favorites. Canadian Kaillie Humphries is seeking her third straight gold medal.
Tik Root contributed to this report.
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