Peterborough born Jamaican Bobsled star says Olympic selection ‘doesn’t seem real’

Peterborough based Sports Injury Physiotherapist Ashley Watson is about to realise his dream when he shortly flies to Beijing as part of the Jamaica Olympic bobsleigh team.

By Barry Warne
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 12:45 pm
Ashley Watson
Ashley Watson

The nation’s bobsleigh team hit the headlines through the popular film Cool Runnings a story about their qualification for the 1988 Olympics.

Watson and his teammates are eager to show that they are no longer simply making up the numbers, but have a seriously competitive team.

Well known on the local sporting scene for his sprinting prowess with Nene Valley Harriers, his prolific goalscorer for the junior Netherton FC teams, and more recently his healing hands. Now Watson's bobsleigh success as brakeman of the Jamaican team has pushed him into the national spotlight.

Ashley Watson

He dabbled with bobsleigh a few years ago as part of the British team, but the 28 year olds career really took off last year when he was selected as part of the Jamaica squad tasked with the job of qualifying for the Olympic Games.

Two members of the team are based in Peterborough. Shanwayne Stephens, a Lance Corporal in the RAF was influential in getting Watson into the Jamaica squad, and hit the headlines in the early days of lockdown when he trained by pushing his fiance’s Mini around the city. Stephens even got to tell The Queen his story in a lockdown video cast with members of the armed forces.

Jamaica have qualified a two man and a four man sled, the first time in 24 years. Watson takes up the story: “The team competed in the North America Cup which was tough. The first race was on the fastest track in the world where even the best pilots in the world make mistakes and crash. We competed in eight two-man and eight four-man races in Whistler Canada, Park City in Utah and Lake Placid in New York state. I was selected for 13 of the 16 races, and our highest placings were in the four man sled in which we achieved one 5th place, two 6th places, three 7th and once 8th. In the two man sled we actually beat teams from Canada and the USA. Our overall performances allowed us to qualify in both disciplines.

“When I was told that I’d been selected for the Olympic team I thought I would get emotional, but it currently does not feel real, it’s just surreal. I announced my selection on social media and immediately received non-stop messages,

The Jamaican team

“I was overwhelmed with the positive comments, not just from my friends and family but from people all over the world who I don’t know. The next morning I woke up and discovered the team was being talked about in multiple national news articles, It’s just crazy right now. I am still focused on training and avoiding social interaction so as to avoid COVID hindering my Olympics. I think once I’m on the plane to China I will start to feel the emotions.”

Despite being born and bred in Peterborough Watson feels a strong pull towards his family’s country.

He said; “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 decided to embark on this journey to give back to Jamaica what it has given to me.

“Representing Jamaica is a massive honour. This journey is for my family’s heritage and my late grandmother and grandfather who have both passed within the last decade. I’m hoping I can inspire people from Jamaica and the surrounding Islands as well as British born Jamaicans to show anything is possible with hard work.”

Flying back home in December between races to complete his physiotherapy masters degree, before returning to the USA, while also trying to keep his business alive to provide some income has meant a lot of juggling

He said: “It’s been hard and I have lost a lot of money doing this, but the result we got makes it all worthwhile.”