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‘Cool Runnings’ soldier who wowed Queen hopes Olympics story inspires others

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British soldier who skippered the 2022 Jamaican Olympic bobsleigh team following an unorthodox training regime which amused royalty said he wants their experience of overcoming adversity to inspire others.

Lance Corporal Shanwayne Stephens said his teammates are proud their underdog story has been compared with the film Cool Runnings, which was inspired by the 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team.

Although the 2022 squad finished bottom in both the two and four-man events, their exploits won them a legion of fans, including Hollywood actor Kevin Hart and television presenter Alison Hammond.

And the 31-year-old soldier even made the Queen laugh in lockdown by telling her he pushed a car up and down streets in training for the Games.

The gunner from Peterborough, who is based at RAF Northolt in west London, told the PA news agency on the team’s return to the UK: “The whole journey for us hasn’t been about bobsleigh, it’s about inspiring people.

Lance corporal Shanwayne Stephens was a member of the Jamaican national bobsleigh team competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics (Handout/PA)

“The world has been turned upside down in the last two years, kids have been stuck inside, and we just wanted to say to them that they should dream big.

“That’s what we did, we were always massive underdogs and we are proud of what we achieved.”

The novice squad – also including 29-year-olds Rolando Reid and Nimroy Turgott, 28-year-old Ashley Watson, and 32-year-old Matthew Wekpe – had only begun training together in September last year, just weeks until the qualifying heats for Beijing, and with equipment that was almost as old as their youngest team member.

They said funding was so short that they were only able to progress to Beijing after Caribbean holiday firm Sandals Resorts offered to sponsor their travel costs.

Members of the Jamaican bobsleigh team including bobsleigh pilot Shanwayne Stephens (front) and teammates (l-r) – Matthew Wekpe, Ashley Watson, Nimroy Turgott and Rolando Reid (Alex Maguire Photography/PA)

Mr Watson, a physical therapist from Peterborough, said the bobsleigh community made them feel particularly welcome in Beijing.

He said: “People were talking to us, especially the other teams.

“Everyone was stoked to see us out there because we just brought the Jamaican vibes and kept smiling.”

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