May 25, 2024

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Benjamin Alexander: How an ‘absolutely brave’ Jamaica went from being a DJ to being his country’s first alpine Olympic skier

Benjamin Alexander: How an 'absolutely brave' Jamaica went from being a DJ to being his country's first alpine Olympic skier
Former DJ honors the stage in man on fire At the festival, the 38-year-old discovered his love for sports at the age of only 32, after a chance meeting with friends.

It was 2015 when Alexander was invited to DJ in Canada, and found himself on top of a mountain with a group of friends.

“I’ve never skated at the time,” Alexander told CNN. “They flew us by helicopter up the mountain to meet the skiers for lunch. They grew up in England and have spent most of my DJ career in warmer climates.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before, I was so surprised by the surroundings.

“And then the icing on the cake was watching my friends put their skates on at the end of lunch and disappear. And I thought that was cool.

A few months later, in February of 2016, Alexander took his first lesson at Whistler and “it’s been kind of a steady progress since then,” he says humbly.

At first, Alexander wanted to get good enough at skateboarding to keep up with his friends.

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“Since I became good enough to keep up with them socially, being the only black actor in the group, but on top of that of Jamaican descent, people kept making side jokes about ‘Cool Running’,” Alexander added, noting. The 1993 hit film about the unexpected story of the Jamaican four-man bobsleigh team’s attempt to reach the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary,

Alexander went to the Pyeongchang Games in 2018 as a spectator, and began to wonder if he could compete at this level.

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“One of the things I noticed, other than fully enjoying the Olympic spirit, was only three Jamaican athletes attending.

“I was surprised to see how strong Jamaica is at the Summer Games, and to see how popular the movie ‘Cool Runnings’ is.

“I kind of had this idea in my head: ‘Let’s see if that’s possible.’ I thought the most likely outcome was death or at least serious injury,” he told CNN.

Alexander poses for a photo during a training session at the Kolasin Ski Resort on December 21, 2021.

‘Absolutely fearless’

So Alexander booked a month-long trip back to Canada to ski, where he met former European Cup-level ski racer, American Gordon Gray.

“When we sat down to lunch, he said, ‘Okay, I’ll be very honest. Your style – absolutely awful – the worst I’ve seen in my life.”

But to Alexander’s surprise, the Jamaican managed to keep up with the American, who had been skiing for 40 years.

Despite criticism of Alexander’s style, the Jamaican American skater said he was “absolutely fearless”.
According to Alexander, Gray added, “If you’re afraid you’ll never get any work done, even with all the technology in the world. But if you’re fearless, we can teach you the technique and I think there’s a chance.”

Alexander was among dozens of athletes - including others from warmer remote climates such as Morocco, Ghana and East Timor - competing in Kolasin in Montenegro in December 2021, as skiers hoped to score points in a final dash to qualify for the Games in Beijing next year.

In just 22 months, Alexander has trimmed his FIS race points from over 600 to just under 160 minimum.

By January, he had earned the last 160 FIS points needed to qualify for the matches by finishing seventh in the Giant Slalom at the Cape Verde Ski National Championships in Liechtenstein.

Fast forward to 2022, and Alexander will represent Jamaica on Sunday at the Winter Games.

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“Qualifying – that was the finish line I’ve been running towards everything else now above, and beyond. That’s just a touch on the cake. I’ve been competing with people who have been skating since the age of two out of skate racing since the age of four.

But getting to Beijing 2022 was not easy.

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He said, “I cut myself a gazillion once on my ski, broke my rib. I had so many injuries. There was so much sweat, it was hard, hard work.”

“Especially during the first (Covid-19) lockdown when the moving lifts stopped working and I spent my time climbing mountains so I could continue skiing.

“I spent 100 days cross-country skiing and climbed the equivalent of 10 Mount Everest with skis on my back and snowshoes on my feet,” he added.

Alexander considers Dudley “Tall” Stokes – one of the members of Jamaica’s first Olympic bobsled team – as one of his mentors, and wants to give his own guidance to Jamaica’s new Olympic nominees.

Alexander, who wants his story to be “a beacon of light” and show “it can still get there,” said Alexander.

“I think the point is, it’s going to be tough at first, but you just have to persevere.”