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Cool Runnings: A skiing sequel for Jamaica's 'Dream Chaser?'

Story highlights

  • Michael Williams aiming to qualify for 2014 Winter Olympics with Jamaica
  • The 42-year-old skier was inspired by Hollywood movie "Cool Runnings"
  • Tropical island spawns very few people who excel at winter sports
  • Williams has until January 2014 to qualify for the Sochi Games

"Jamaica, we have a bobsled team," cried the Hollywood film that immortalized an unlikely quartet of Winter Olympians who became the story of the 1988 Games.

The novelty of four Jamaicans swapping their tropical Caribbean homeland for the freezing slopes of Canada to become the first team from their country to compete in the bobsleigh was a story that resonated around the world.

It also planted a seed in the brain of another Jamaican who, 22 years later, began his quest to ski at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Now 42, Michael Williams is hoping he'll be the next pioneer from the Great Antilles to blaze a trail in sport -- though perhaps not quite to the same extent as the world's fastest man Usain Bolt.

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"I actually watched 'Cool Runnings' and the bobsleigh team from 1988 and was inspired," Williams, who refers to himself as "The Dream Chaser," told CNN's Alpine Edge show.

    "I just thought it was the coolest thing -- Jamaica in the Winter Olympics and they did well.

    "I watched a lot of skiing during those Olympics, Alberto Tomba (Italian who won two golds in Calgary) was the king of the Games and I thought, 'Wow, it's incredible what these guys can do.'

    "I thought I'd love to combine the two, represent Jamaica and ski for Jamaica some time in my life. Jamaica is really proud there's another guy trying to do what the bobsleigh guys did in 1988."

    But it wasn't until the 2010 installment of the Games in Vancouver that Williams, who was born and raised by his West Indian mother in Canada, was spurred on to transform his pipe dream into a reality, as another pair of underdogs took on the establishment.

    Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, known as the "Snow Leopard," was the first person from Ghana to qualify for the Winter Olympics. He skied in the slalom and made quite an impression with his eccentric outfits.

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    Jamaican Errol Kerr also made an impact, securing ninth place in the skicross event -- the highest finish ever by a Caribbean athlete at the Winter Games.

    Williams was now a man on a mission. "I saw a report on CNN with the Snow Leopard who qualified from Ghana for the Winter Olympics in 2010," he explained.

    "I was on my couch and when I saw that, that just put a click in my head and I said, 'If this guy can do it, I can do it.'

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    "I knew we had a Jamaican Ski Federation because I heard about Errol Kerr, but the Snow Leopard really inspired me to get off my butt and call them."

    There was just one problem: Williams had no idea how to ski.

    He drove straight to an indoor ski slope near his home in Frankfurt, Germany, and threw himself at the mercy of its resident coach, who quickly realized the scale of his task.

    "I met one of my instructors, Andre, and he took me skiing a couple of times in the indoor hall and said 'You can't ski at all, but I like your attitude and I'll definitely work with you.'

    "I actually picked up the phone and called Errol Kerr's mum and said, 'Listen, I know your son skis for Jamaica, how did he get in the team?' She gave me some tips and the rest is history."

    The task facing Williams is a tough one. He needs to bring his points average down to 140 by January 2014 to have a shot at qualifying for Sochi -- it is currently 763.

    His best finish this season is 43rd out of 45 finishers at an event in Schladming in Austria back in February. In the actual world championships event the following day he was 63rd, but did not qualify for the final race.

    Williams has had many obstacles to overcome, not just in sporting terms, but also with the image of him held by the seasoned professionals on the skiing circuit, who offered him a somewhat frosty reception to begin with.

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    "In the beginning I went to a race, my first race, in a blue ski jacket, black pants, a helmet that wasn't regulation, I borrowed the boots from the actual hill where we had the race. I just wanted to try it and I looked like a vacationer going skiing!" he said.

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    "These guys were just looking at me at the top of the hill going 'What are you doing here?' but I didn't care, I just sort of went about my ways, closed my eyes and air planed down the hill and managed to make it."

    Williams has dedicated his life to fulfilling his dream, training for eight hours a day -- four on the slopes and the rest taken up with work on technique and conditioning.

    His mum beams with pride whenever he competes on the international stage under the Jamaican flag, so what would it be like if he realized his dream and made it to Sochi?

    "It would be incredible," he said. "I think the moment you walk into the stadium with all the other athletes and you're holding up your flag ... to me, it's incredible.

    "I've played a lot of sports in my life -- I've played professional American Football, and I know what it's like to achieve something in sports, but I think the Olympics, summer or winter, is the pinnacle of any sporting achievement.

    "I'd be really proud, it would be awesome."