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The Jamaican Bobsled Captain / Dudley “Tal” Stokes and the Untold Story Of Pain, Struggle, and Redemption Behind Cool Runnings

At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the Jamaican bobsled captain, Tal Stokes, lost control of the four-man sled he was piloting and crashed violently while millions watched on TV. As skulls slammed the ice for twenty-one perilous seconds before the sled came to a stop, a calming clarity settled over him. Instead of walking away just glad to be alive, Tal internalized the experience and committed himself to reaching the pantheon of Olympic bobsledding, whatever it took. 

In the run-up to the Olympics, the improbable sight of black men from a tropical Caribbean island entering a white winter sport had seized the public’s imagination and struck a cord. Five years later in 1993, Disney Studios released Cool Runnings, a feel-good film very loosely based on their quixotic quest. The Hollywood version shaped an enduring image of the Jamaicans as funny, lovable, try-hard, wanna-be bobsledders whom everyone could relate to, even if they didn’t stand a chance.

The true story, however, of how the real Jamaican bobsledders clawed their way back from a near-death experience in Calgary reveals a far different tale. Told largely through Tal’s eyes, the book unveils astounding perseverance in the face of heartbreaking setbacks, chronic lack of money, and vexing doubts. Against all odds, the Jamaicans took on the closed and cliquey world of established European and North American bobsledders and redeemed themselves by entering bobsledding’s Olympic elite. That journey from rock bottom “crash dummies” to fearsome contenders stands as a bold testament to the human spirit and never giving up. They pushed through barriers, upended the established order, dramatically displayed the transcendent power of sport to inspire dreams and change the way we see each other.