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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cool Runnings: A lot of ambition

When one thinks of the Winter Olympics, one would think of countries that have a lot of mountains, snow and ice; with a lot of winter games. So you would think of European countries, the United States, Canada, and so on. Thinking of tropical countries or countries that are essentially sun and beach destinations are not ones that typically come to mind when you think of sports such as skiing, sledding, or bob-sledding. This movie thus is a major surprise to those who see it for the first time - it takes a team from Jamaica (a major tropical paradise), and takes their entry into the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada in the bob-sledding competition. But just an entry into the bob-sledding competition is not worthy of a movie, it is their amazing ambition, their panache, their dogged persistence and their almost pulling off a major surprise.

Cool Runnings (1993)

The movie is not fully accurate, there are some differences between what actually happened and the depiction on the screen; however, the movie is somewhat of a good representation of the events. The movie starred the late John Candy in the major role of Irving ("Irv") Blitzer, a former American bobsled double gold medallist at the 1968 Winter Olympics who was disgraced after being disqualified in 1972, and who retired to Jamaica. The movie was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, and went onto be a major commercial success; it cost around $14 million to make and went onto earn more than $150 million worldwide.
The movie seems to start at incredulity, when a Jamaican 100m sprinter Derice Bannock (Leon Robinson) failed to make it for the team for the Summer Olympics (due to a mistake by another contestant Junior Bevil (Rawle D. Lewis)), and approaches Irv for coaching to setup a Jamaican bobsledding team for the Winter Olympics. The first half of the movie is about this coaching regime for the first 3 months, including their initial failures and disappointment; however, they soon start to bond together as a team.
The second half of the movie is about the team in the Olympics; they face scorn and ridicule for their attempt. This is reinforced when they appear last in the first day trials in the actual Olympics. However, they appear fired up on the second day, and start surprising people with a much improved performance, ending up in eighth place. On the final day, they are like world champions, almost ending up with a record performance, however their borrowed sled falls apart a few meters from the finish. Unfazed, and with their spirits high, they carry their sled and walk across the finishing lines to the cheers of spectators.

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