With his speed and quickness, it feels like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt could do anything. He’s got eight Olympic gold medals and the title of fastest man in the world. He owns world records in the 100m and 200m, which were both set in 2009 and still stand today.
But could Bolt be a bobsledder? It’s not a far-fetched question. Many bobsledders are converted athletes, and sprinters have made the transition from summer track to winter track before. (And no one should forget “Cool Runnings,” which is based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team.) With Jamaica’s very first women’s bobsled team competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, it’s hard not to wonder how Bolt would look pushing a sled on an icy track.
Leo Campbell, Jamaica’s chef de mission (the head of the Jamaican Olympic team at PyeongChang), isn’t wondering about that. He told the Hindustan Times exactly what he thought about Bolt’s chances as a bobsledder.
“This is a painful sport. Right now, for someone as accomplished as Bolt, he’s quite comfortable, if you will,” said Campbell.
“It would be really nice to have Usain on the back of a bobsleigh, but we’re not so confident he can manage more than two races because it’s a really tough and long season. And he’s retired and wants to relax now,” he added.
Campbell is pretty adamant here: he doesn’t think retired and “comfortable” Usain Bolt could make it as a bobsledder. And sure, if you plop retired and “comfortable” Usain Bolt on a bobsled track and tell him to have at it, he probably wouldn’t do that well. (Even though, let’s face it, even retired Bolt is more athletic and fit than most people.)
But let’s start at the beginning and look at what skills people need to even begin training to be a bobsledder. The United States uses a combine test of several events to determine someone’s skill level and potential to excel at bobsled. There are sprints done with timings of 15, 30, and 45 seconds, as well as a 30-meter split. Athletes then have to toss a weighted ball (16 pounds for men, 12 pounds for women) forward and underhand, looking for the longest distance. The third test is a broad jump, also known as a standing long jump, which is measured after a regulation leap into a pit. Further tests include weight lifts like the power clean and back squat.
There’s no telling how the “comfortable” version of Bolt would do with these tests (though again, he’s Usain Bolt, so he’d probably do just fine). But a version of Bolt that was actually trying? He’s the fastest man in the world, one of the most gifted athletes ever born. He’s not just fast, but he’s strong. It’s hard to imagine something he wouldn’t excel at, given a little time and instruction. He’d slay the sprints and the weighted ball toss, and probably the long jump, too.
Anthony Watson doesn’t disagree. He’s competing in the skeleton at the PyeongChang Olympics, the first Jamaican to ever do so, and he shared his opinion about Bolt with the Times.
“If Usain comes into skeleton, I’m out of a job. That man will take every start record and race on the track. That’d be exciting,” Watson said.
There’s only one fair answer to the question of Bolt and bobsledding: if Usain Bolt wanted to be a bobsledder, only a fool would bet against him.