Hottest thing on ice: the true story of Cool Runnings

How Cool Runnings got even cooler

So, this started by hitting Wikipedia. I usually start there, or one of those websites that seem to specialise in the true stories behind movies. But this time I was on Wikipedia, and I was trying to work out how much of the story of Cool Runnings was true. The only reason we were watching the film was that we'd seen all the Star Wars and Avengers on Disney + and my wife wanted to show my kids Cool Runnings. I remember it being fun, but I remember Goonies being fun too, I have no urge to watch that.

But it was on, and in front of me, and about halfway through my sports writing brain is in high gear. Now I need to learn as much as I can about the true story behind Cool Runnings.  That night I never saw the end of the movie, as I had to do some other work. But I'd already moved on from the movie, this was about the actual story. For two days I did nothing but search and read this topic.

This happens a lot, but with this story, I just couldn't let it go. I know I'm obsessed once I can no longer tell what the tabs on my browser are, because there's too many to show a logo.

And here's why. The actual story about the disgraced former Bobsledder being convinced by failed sprinters to form a team seemed like a great sports story. But the actual true story, oh, that was crazy.  A month after I got the idea I spent an hour chatting to an expert in the Grenada Invasion, my producer Emma de Smith had secured an interview with a legendary English footballer, and I was receiving a call from the CIA.

That was about a month or two back, and I'm still not done with it. But my first project on the Jamaican Bobsled team has been made into a radio documentary for talkSPORT, which you can - and should - listen to as a podcast.

But I will not stop there; my name is Jarrod Kimber, and I'm a Cool Runnings truther.

This is why, this story is one of the most interesting I have ever come across in sport. So you get the basics, Jamaica having a bobsled team is crazy. Most of this team had five months training to get ready for an Olympics in what is one of the most dangerous sports of all time. Except, one of the team., Chris Stokes, who was the only top level sprinter in the side, had three days to prepare.

Three days. 3.

Stokes never looked out of the sled the entire time, because it terrified him. Most people try bobsled once, and then never walk back up the mountain, because travelling at 75-85MPH in a metal tube in an ice cave is a horrific way to spend 45 seconds.

The others weren't even top level athletes, they were army officers, Chris' brother Dudley was the driver, and they gave him the job because he was a helicopter pilot.

The reason they went looking for army officers is the Jamaican Bobsled team owner was an American called George Fitch. Fitch is the reason I got a call from the CIA.  Fitch was head of the Caribbean Basin Initative, which is an organisation linked to the US's invasion of the small (but beautiful, it's Initmy favourite West Indian island) Grenada. It wasn't just the US that was involved in that; the Caribbean forces were involved too. That was led by Ken Barnes.  And it was Barnes who got the Jamaican army officers involved with the bobsled idea.

Oh, Ken Barnes would have a son. John Barnes. Yes, that John Barnes, rapper and English footballer John Barnes.

Oh, in this story there is also Prince Albert, their coach goes missing, there is the real story of why they crashed, and Dudley Stokes and Devon Harris talk about the team member who was picked because he was a Reggae singer, but he never actually sung reggae, he just sold t-shirts. Which he did well. And it was with t-shirt sales they got their four-man sled; they had turned up only to compete in the two-man sled.

Do you know see why I am obsessed? Royalty, English footballers, reggae singers and the CIA, the Disney movie is fun, but the real story isn't a Disney film, it's a Tom Clancy book directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

So go listen to the podcast, and I apologise for the many times I will bring this up here again. But yes it is weird Jamaica has a bobsled team, but it turns out, that's the least weird thing about this story.

Honestly, just go and listen to the podcast

A huge thanks to my co-host Jon Norman, editor Caolan Cosgrove and exec producer Emma de Smith.

Our previous episode of the Dive was on Why Athletes Protest, which you can listen to here.