Losing a coach just days before your Winter Olympics debut is bad enough.
But losing the sled, too? That’s a nightmare on ice — and it could be the reality for Jamaica’s women’s bobsled team, the BBC reports.
This week one of the team’s coaches, German Olympic champion Sandra Kiriasis, abruptly quit. And when Kiriasis announced she was leaving, she threatened to take the team’s sled with her. Kiriasis told the BBC she’s legally responsible for the sled, while the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation says it’s not hers at all.
If the president of the country’s bobsled federation is to be believed, the team’s 43-year-old coach won’t be missed.
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“The lady was a hugely destructive force on the team,” Christian Stokes, president of the federation, told Reuters “Now that she is off the team, synergy is much better, tension is down and athletes are now able to focus in a much healthier environment.”
The federation was a tad more diplomatic in an official statement.
“We are deeply disappointed in her decision to leave the program,” the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation (JBSF) said in the statement posted on Twitter. “We thank her for her invaluable contribution.”
Kiriasis quit because the team asked her to change into a new role at the last minute, she told the BBC. That new role would have meant less work directly with the athletes on the team.
The women’s bobsled team — comprised of Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and Carrie Russell — is slated to be the island nation’s first female team to compete at a Winter Olympics, Reuters reports.
The pair is scheduled to practice on Saturday in anticipation of competition during the following week.
If they have a sled, that is.
“The athletes have told me they don’t understand why this has happened as they have no problem with me and we have a good relationship,” Kiriasis told BBC.
The organization downplayed any harm Kiriasis’ sudden departure could have on the team, and said the former coach didn’t own the sled.
Kiriasis, who won Olympic gold in 2006, told the BBC that her contacts in the sporting world are what got the team their sled in their first place.
The team will now be led by High Performance Director Jo Manning and Coach Dudley Stokes, the federation said. Stroke, the president of the federation, told Reuters that both of those coaches have been with the team for the entire season, adding that “things have only improved with (Kiriasis’) departure.”
“If you come on the team you have to be a team player,” Stoke told Reuters. “There are no gods and goddesses here.”
A spokesperson for the team told AFP that other countries have offered to help — including equipment.
“We’ve been approached by many nations with extra equipment, coaching staff and we’re extremely thankful,” Kathleen Pulito told AFP.
The team’s athletes, for their part, have focused instead on what their participation means for others watching the Pyeongchang, South Korea, games at home.
“It’s important to me that little girls and boys see someone that looks like them, talks like them, has the same culture as them, has crazy curly hair and wears it natural, has brown skin — included in different things in this world,” Fenlator-Victorian said at a news conference.