Monday 18 March, 2019

First Jamaican skeleton athlete at Winter Olympics in action today

Thirty years after Jamaica's men bobsleigh team made its first historic appearance at a Winter Olympics, another Jamaican - Anthony Watson, will make Winter Olympics history on Wednesday, this time by competing in skeleton in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Watson, 28-year-old, will represent Jamaica as the country's first-ever skeleton competitor.

The history-making athlete is scheduled to slide down the ice in heat 1 of the men's skeleton at 8:00 pm Jamaica time (10 a.m., Thursday, South Korea time). The heat features 30 athletes and Watson will compete at start order 1 at the Olympic Sliding Centre.

The Olympics berth comes four years after Watson started the journey he called "a big roller coaster of emotions." 

"There are moments you think twice about what you're doing, there's fear, doubt, you want to quit or turn away," Watson was reportedly saying just before heading to Pye.ongChang

Skeleton is not for the faint-hearted. It involves an athlete riding a small sled, headfirst, at high speed down a frozen track while lying face-down and riders can hit speeds of 80mph.

Watson was born and raised in the US. His father was born in Jamaica and that opens the door for him to compete for the country at the Olympics. 

He is ranked 79th in the world,  but  that world ranking time was not enough to qualify him for the Olympics automatically. He made it to PyeongChang after nations including Austria, Switzerland and France declined places.

Watson was the last slider given one of the reallocated skeleton slots.

He said, "it was January 29 at 5 a.m. when I found out from our federation president that I was going to the Olympics. At that exact moment, I felt the biggest sense of relief. Waiting to hear was like taking a big, deep breath and holding it until you feel like you're going to explode." 

Watson competed in many sports. He is a former Junior Olympic national finalist in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. While studying he played football and basketball.

After his track and field ambitions ended through injury, Watson gave bobsled a try in 2013 when he landed at the United States bobsled and skeleton training combine. After three years in that program he walked away in 2016 and switched to skeleton that same year.

Watson is not expected to medal in PyeongChang but is excited to be at the Winter Olympics.

 "It is an absolute honour to make history. This has been a dream of mine since I was six years old and I am excited to do my best for my country on the world's biggest stage," he reportedly said.


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