Benjamin Alexander, the unlikely Jamaican skier on the way to becoming a source of inspiration | Winter Olympics Beijing 2022
OWhatever the outcome of Sunday morning’s giant slalom race, a record is sure to be set. Jamaica will be represented in alpine skiing for the first time. Benjamin Alexander, a 38-year-old from Northampton, will start, becoming one of 15 athletes to represent Jamaica at the Winter Olympics and following in the footsteps of the 1988 bobsled team immortalized in the film Cool Runnings.
Alexander recently told CNN that when he first started learning to ski, “being the only black representative in the group, but on top of being of Jamaican descent, people kept throwing jokes about Cool Runnings”. Dudley ‘Tal’ Stokes of this famous bobsleigh team is now one of Alexander’s mentors.
Having caught the ski bug, he later attended the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics as a spectator and noted that despite their strong presence at the Summer Games, Jamaica had sent three athletes to South Korea. He started to wonder if it was possible for him to qualify. “I thought the most likely outcome was death or at least serious injury.”
The actual result was that alongside Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian he carried the Jamaican flag to the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing for the opening ceremony of the 2022 Games.
Alexander started skiing in 2015, while DJing on top of a Canadian mountain and gave it a try. Since deciding to try for the Olympics, he has taken it much more seriously and trained with a number of coaches, including American skier Gordon Gray, who at one point said given to Alexander that his technique was atrocious, “the worst I have ever seen”. .
The child of a Jamaican father and an English mother, Alexander was raised working class in Wellingborough, near Northampton, and says no one in his immediate family had skied before. He qualified by finishing seventh in the giant slalom at the Cape Verde National Ski Championships in Liechtenstein in January. “I would never have embarked on this mission if I hadn’t thought it was possible,” he says.
He is keen to take on a role as an ambassador for the sport – and to have fun on the slopes. In a recent interview with BBC Radio Northampton he said: “I hope to inspire people who have taken some joy out of my story to go to Milton Keynes, Snozone or holiday in the Alps and have a try. There’s a place for everyone, and if I can go from zero to Olympian in six years, everyone can go from zero to having fun in a much shorter amount of time. It’s going to be completely surreal. “Sometimes you just have to keep going over the basics or you’ll be overwhelmed with the emotions of competition.”