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"Cool Runnings" On Skies - Michael Williams' Olympic Dream

posted 20 Jan 2014, 08:17 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 20 Jan 2014, 08:17 ]

Jamaican alpine skier Michael Williams continues his training as he tries to reach his lifelong goal of qualifying for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

HINTERTUX, AUSTRIA (JANUARY 17, 2014) (REUTERS) - Jamaican Michael Williams closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. It is minus 10 dgrees at 3,250 metres at the Hintertux glacier. But the skiier has a dream and he wants to make it come true.

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Williams, 43, is close to qualifying for the men's alpine skiing at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games and will know by the end of the week if he has done enough.

After finishing 57th out of 117 during an event in Japan which finished on January 11, Williams needs another 140 FIS (International Ski Federation) points to secure qualification.

Williams is competing in Austria this week, where he could get those points and achieve his dream.

That dream began in 1988 after watching the Jamaican bobsleigh team compete in Calgary and he was also inspired by the alpine skiers.

"From 1988, the first time I actually watched the Winter Olympics, they were in Calgary," Williams told Reuters TV. "I was a teenager at the time. And I saw the Jamaican bobsleigh team "Cool runnings" do us proud as Jamaicans and I thought 'wow, this is really interesting that we've got athletes in the Winter Olympics'.

"And then I watched the same Olympics and saw skier like Alberto Tomba and Pirmin Zurbriggen do what they did with slalom and downhill, and I just thought, well, skiing is such an amazing sport. And I put one and one together and therefore I wanted to become a skier for Jamaica one time in my life. It was a dream."

However, it was a dream Williams did not pursue for another 22 years.

Born and raised in Canada, Williams played ice hockey and American football while growing up and after graduating from university in 1993 he moved to Europe to play American football professionally inSwitzerland and Germany.

Williams moved into coaching in 1997 before making a comeback in 2008 to play for Frankfurt Universe in the German Third Division.

It was during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, when Williams thought his dream to ski in the Olympics could become a reality.

After watching Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong and Jamaican Errol Kerr both compete in skiing events, Williams thought he could do the same.

Nkrumah-Acheampong, also known as The Snow Leopard, had only started skiing five years beforeVancouver and it made him set his sights on Sochi, just four years away.

That is not a lot of time to become an Olympic athlete but Williams insisted he was leaving nothing to chance to be ready for Sochi.

"We took it very seriously right from the beginning, we have a lot of respect for the sports," he said. "We have a team doctor, I have a technician for my skies, I have a technician for my boots, I have a mental doctor, if you can believe that as well, to help me before races and stuff like that, if there is things I need to overcome. So we take it very professionally."

This time last year, Williams' dream looked all but over after suffering a cruciate ligament rupture during training. But after six-and-a-half months of training and rehabilitation he is back on the slopes and in the gym surprises his coach with his fitness.

The Jamaica Ski Team coachAndre Hurlbrink, said: "Obviously, because of his age, Michael is only fit for limited exposure. But he is still very fit for his age; one has to mention that as well. He is a very good athlete, after all. And we adjust his training accordingly. True, because of his injury we were able to build up a lot of muscle. Meaning, his fitness and power is no problem at all, rather his skiing skills. So to work as well on the glacier, that is also one of his aspirations."

The opening ceremony for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games is on February 7.