A British-born former DJ is set to become Jamaica’s first alpine skier at the Winter Olympics, just six years after taking up the sport.
Benjamin Alexander, 38, whose father is Jamaican, will be the only member of the Jamaican national ski team at the Beijing Winter Olympics next month.
Alexander, who grew up in Wellingborough near Northampton, will compete in the giant slalom event after finishing seventh in the discipline at the Cape Verde National Ski Championships in Liechtenstein earlier this week.
The athlete, who has become an internationally renowned DJ having performed at major festivals such as Burning Man in the United States, only started skiing in 2015 while on vacation in Canada and has no full time coach.
Alexander, who will be the 15th athlete to compete for Jamaica at the Winter Olympics, readily admits he stands little chance against sporting elites – many of whom have been skiing from a young age and have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their career. over the years.
Instead, he hopes his unlikely run will inspire others, especially those in small countries and tropical climates, to pursue whatever alpine dreams they have the courage to harbor.
Benjamin Alexander, 38, whose father is Jamaican, will be the only member of the Jamaican national ski team at the Beijing Winter Olympics next month
Alexander counts Dudley Stokes, the pilot of the Jamaican bobsleigh team who competed in the 1988 Olympics, as one of his mentors who keeps in touch with him every day.
Stokes’ efforts to qualify for the Olympics were immortalized in the film Cool Runnings, and Alexander recalls watching the film and thinking it was “the coolest thing since sliced bread”. .
Alexander, who has an English mother and a Jamaican father, said that without trailblazers like Stokes, Jamaica might not have made it to the Winter Olympics yet and that would make their journey “incredibly difficult”.
Alexander wrote on Instagram: “I truly hope my journey will pave the way for a whole new generation of sporting talent from races and nations that are underrepresented in winter sports.”
He told BBC Sport: “They say never meet your heroes, but Dudley is brilliant.”
“There are a lot of favors I owe to those heroic efforts of the 1998 team. I design my racing suit and I would like it to be a near 21st century version of bobsled [kit]. Credit where credit is due, the saying goes we stand on the shoulders of giants and they were the giants in my story.
Dudley Stokes smiles at members of his team as they demonstrate bobsleigh push form during a send-off reception for the team at a hotel in Tokyo February 4, 1998 ahead of the Winter Olympics
Alexander only started skiing in 2015 when he skied in Whistler, Canada where he was invited to DJ at a party.
‘I just picked a green run [the easiest] and I just kept doing the same race over and over. The first time I went on this race, I think I fell 27 times.
“I think I finished at the end of the day only having crashed seven times in that race and for me that was progress.
‘That’s just how I looked at it all. Scratch a little at a time and try to improve every day.
Alexander then met American skier Gordon Gray in 2019 who told him his technique was “atrocious” but also that he couldn’t understand how Alexander was able to keep up with him.
Alexander said: “He pulls me aside and says, ‘Benji, I’ll tell you what I see. Your technique is absolutely atrocious, I’ve never seen anything worse.
“But you tell me that you only skied 25 days, you only had two lessons. Of course, you don’t learn this highly technical thing by osmosis, but what I can’t figure out for my life is how you follow me. You are a madman, you are not afraid of anything. The fact that you are fearless means that you have won more than half the battle.”
Alexander, who has an English mother and a Jamaican father, said that without trailblazers like Stokes, Jamaica might not have made it to the Winter Olympics yet and that would make their journey “incredibly difficult”. Pictured: Alexander slides down a slope during a training session at the Kolasin ski resort on December 21, 2021
Alexander explained: “He helped me realize that it would be within my reach if I really applied myself and dedicated myself to it. I’ve been pretty much full time on this assignment ever since.
Almost three years later, Alexander is competing in the Beijing Winter Olympics this week as the first Jamaican to compete in the alpine skiing event.
He says he hopes his experience will show the public that no matter your background – everyone has a place in winter sports.
“If I’m able to start a sport at 32 and go to the Olympics at 38, then there’s no excuse for anyone – whether they’re 40, 50, 60, not to go out and take lessons and have fun off skiing,” he told Eurosport. “It’s not too late.’
“When I started this mission it was a really selfish pursuit – let’s see where I can take this for myself,” Alexander said.
“Then after the incident that happened last year with George Floyd, I got so much attention and support as a result of people trying to stand up for diversity in winter sports.”
“Now I almost feel like I’m carrying this pressure to perform and do this thing on my shoulders for diversity in winter sports, so it’s gotten a lot bigger.”
“I’m very happy to be that person who can show that no matter your background, socio-economic or racial, you have a place in winter sports.”
“We try to inspire the next generations,” Alexander said last month.
Alexander slides down a slope during a training session at the Kolasin ski resort on December 21, 2021
“Even if you are from Timor, India or Jamaica, if you start young and believe in it, then maybe we can be elite countries in winter sports within a generation. ”
Alexander comes from a working class background. He told Olympics.com: “My mum, dad and brother have spent most of their professional careers either in factories or driving.
“None of the three completed secondary education with a decent GCSE or O level.”
But Alexander took a different path and got a scholarship to a private school before studying physics and engineering at Imperial College London.
While in school he started DJing but quit after two years in 2002 after someone was shot and killed while Alexander was queuing to get into a London nightclub.
He said: ‘I just thought to myself this is absolute stupidity. By day I’m basically going to be at MIT – I went to Imperial College of Science, Technology, Medicine to study physics – so by day I’m doing that, and by night I’m hanging out with people trying to s killing each other and I quit music almost instantly at that point.
Alexander then worked in finance in Hong Kong for years, before falling back into DJing. He ended up playing at the Burning Man Festival in the United States and a residency in Ibiza.