For tropical countries on the globe, being able to participate in the Witner Olympics seems a far-fetched dream.
But in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, people have been amazed to discover many countries without natural ice and snow breaking through to showcase their talent on the ice and snow stages, a vivid demonstration of the Olympic spirit.
After 20 years, the Caribbean island country of Trinidad and Tobago returned to the Winter Olympics as its men's bobsled team, at the last minute, snagged a ticket to the Beijing Games. The Global Times reporters talked with Brian Lewis, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, about the efforts and meaning of tropical countries being able to take part in this human sporting festival on ice and snow.
The Trinidad and Tobago men's bobsleigh team with Axel Brown, Andre Marcano and Shakeel John finished 28th overall among the 30 teams at the at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre on February 15 in Yanqing district, Beijing. They did not make it to the medal round.
But the country drew great significance in its participation.
"The fact that Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the Bobsleigh competition was significant. After 20 years away from the Winter Olympics, our participation in Beijing 2022 is an important inspiration and motivation for a new era and generation of Winter sport athletes," Lewis said.
"It's dawn of a new era for Trinidad and Tobago Bobsleigh, and we as the Tobago Olympic Committee are very proud and excited about the future . Beijing 2022 has been important for Trinidad and Tobago," he said.
"It's pretty exciting to see the possibilities that it represents for the sport of bobsleigh," Lewis noted, noting that for Caribbean countries, winter sports do not stand as a sporting advantage, but Trinidad and Tobago's participation in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be important for winter sports development, and could bring more opportunities for people in the island country.
It was not easy for the team to enter the Winter Olympics, not even constituting the team.
According to Lewis, the athletes of the bobsleigh teams are from different backgrounds. The experienced pilot Axel Brown, born in the UK to a British father and a Trinidadian mother, used to compete for Great Britain in bobsleigh for seven years until 2021.
Meanwhile, there are also inexperienced members, for instance, Andre Marcano, a 35-year-old high school teacher in Manhattan, who had never pushed a bobsled until a few months ago, the Washington Post reported.
Marcano was the Brakeman and completed first two runs on day one. However due to injury, he had to be replaced by Shakeel John on the second day. John served as the Brakeman for the third run. "Marcano was courageous as he pushed through pain," Lewis said.
The last time Trinidad and Tobago competed in the men's bobsled event at the Olympics was in 2002 in Salt Lake City, US. The bobsled team first entered the Winter Games in 1994 at Lillehammer, Norway, followed by a second showing in Nagano, Japan, four years later.
"I look forward to a very determined performance from the team. I'm confident that they will represent Trinidad and Tobago with pride, dignity, patriotism, fairness, and the spirit of good sportsmanship, and abiding by the rules and regulations and with a spirit of friendship," Lewis said before the Olympics.
"The last couple of days feel like a dream. A dream come true? Yes, of course," Axel Brown, the star of the Trinidad and Tobago the bobsleigh team, wrote on his Instagram after participating in the team's last game on February 26.
He listed several reasons to celebrate. For instance, the team did not exist until the last six months leading up to the Olympic Games; the athletes also proved themselves, even when they have injury.
"We represented Trinidad and Tobago with pride after a 20 year gap, and also secured our nation's highest ever Winter Olympic finish," he said. "That just our presence on the starting line meant so much to so many."
Lewis, who is also President of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees, believes that the spirit and tradition of the region's countries such as Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, serves as an advantage, which could be translated into the bobsled event.
Also, the involvement of contestants who are part of the Diaspora comprising of those with a tropical country heritage but born in countries with winter sport traditions, could provide more opportunities to these countries to participate in future Winter Olympics.
Many tropical countries including Jamaica, Haiti, and Brazil joined the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in the last two weeks.
In an exclusive interview with the Global Times previously, William Frederick Blick, a member of the International Olympic Committee mentioned his joy at seeing athletes from countries including Trinidad and Tobago. "I was happy to support Trinidad and Tobago and Team Saudi athletes who were competing for the very first time. They were my favorite athletes," he said.
When its journey in the Olympics ended, Lewis praised the organization of the event.
"The virus protection measures were very strict and rigorous but Trinidad and Tobago's Winter Olympic Delegation appreciated that it was for our protection and that of everyone including the People of Beijing and all the other Delegations," he said.
"The organization of the event was extraordinary and we extend our respect, gratitude, and appreciation to the Local Organizing Committee and the government," he noted.