Former Peterborough pupil starts Cool Runnings Olympic bid
‘Clinic temporarily closed due to an Olympic opportunity’ were the words written on the door of Ashley Watson’s sports therapy treatment room after he was called up by the Jamaica bobsleigh team.
The former Jack Hunt pupil had jumped on a USA bound jet at short notice to join the national team training camp at Lake Placid, and began the adventure of a lifetime.
Formally a successful sprinter with Nene Valley Harriers and a free scoring teenage marksman for Netherton FC, the versatile 29 year old sporting all-rounder is now looking to emulating the heroes of the film ‘Cool Runnings’, which was based on the Jamaican teams quest to qualify for the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Watson represented the GB team as brakeman and will now fulfill the same role for Jamaica.
A brakeman is the last one to jump in the sleigh, and a combination of extraordinary strength and speed are the vital tools needed for the job. Watson has an abundance of both qualities. “I was in the GB bobsleigh set up from 2013 to 2017,” said Watson. “I then took a break from the sport and focussed on my sports therapy career. I got talking to Shanwayne Stephens, the Jamaican bobsleigh driver who lives in Peterborough, and was based at RAF Wittering. We spoke about how I could be a part of the Jamaica team.
“I am British born, although my father was born and raised in St. James, Jamaica. Growing up I fell in love with the country when I visited it at an early age. I instantly felt a strong connection and have decided to embark on this journey to give back to Jamaica what it has given to me, and as a tribute to my late grand-parents who were born and lived in Jamaica.
“When I stopped bobsleigh for GB, the athlete in me still hadn’t died so I decided to get into powerlifting. I got a 3rd place at the GB bench press nationals after a year of doing the sport.
“Then Covid came about so I invested in tons of home gym kit and got as strong as possible throughout 2020. I have spent 2021 turning these gains into functional strength by adding sprints, weighted sprints, plyometrics, Olympic lifting and circuits to my training. I trained with the Jamaican lads who are based in England, and got selected for the national team.
“I flew out to the USA on the 18th of Sep to start pre-season training on ice and to gel with the team. Bobsleigh requires a lot of team work as well as getting used to pushing on ice, which can be a pretty difficult thing to do. We are leaving Lake Placid and flying to Canada to train in Whistler for a few weeks before our first race of the North America Cup circuit.
“This race will count towards Olympic qualification. The races after this will be in Park City, Utah and then Lake Placid. We may race after Christmas in Europe if we still need more qualification points. In-between the Park City and Lake Placid events I will fly home for four days to complete my last exam of my Masters Degree in Physiotherapy.
“My days are full on as I’m studying as well as doing a bit of online powerlifting coaching to get some kind of income. I had to put my business on hold and must still pay rent for my working space.”
Watson is extremely confident that his Jamaican team will come through the qualifiers, and has been buoyed by the crowds of Americans who come along to cheer his team at their training sessions.
He still has a foot in the GB bobsleigh camp through his day job. Prior to his flight across the Atlantic, Watson was providing physiotherapy services to the team, which includes Olympic Long Jump Gold medallist Greg Rutherford.
In the meantime the popular Westwood based sports therapist who trades under the name of Anatomy Well-being at Westfield Leisure Park is hoping to raise funds to help finance his once in a lifetime experience. If you wish to help, please go to https://gofund.me/08f15e6d