The fairytale journey of the Jamaican women’s bobsleigh team at the Winter Olympics has descended into chaos after one of its coaches resigned.
Sandra Kiriasis’ dramatic departure and subsequent war of words between the ex-coach and her former team has cast a shadow over preparations for the team’s first appearance at a winter games.
The German former Olympic champion blamed the decision on a demotion that “would have forced me to sacrifice my reputation and my professionalism”.
The Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation originally announced it was “deeply disappointed” at Ms Kiriasis’ move, calling her contribution “invaluable”. The statement did not give a reason for her departure.
But the group’s president, Christian Stokes, then launched a furious attack on her performance, claiming she was a “hugely destructive force on the team”.
“Now that she is off the team, synergy is much better, tension is down and athletes are now able to focus in a much healthier environment…
“If you come on the team you have to be a team player. There are no Gods and Goddesses here.”
Ms Kiriasis said she had “never known such disappointment in this sport in my life” at the move.
The ex-Olympic champion complained she was told “without any reason” her role would be downgraded from driver coach to track and performance analyst.
“Naturally I cannot accept to be treated the way I have been treated,” Ms Kiriasis said.
Confusion remains over who owns the sled the Jamaican women are due to compete on.
Team spokeswoman Kathleen Pulito said Ms Kiriasis’ departure would not affect their preparations and they would be on the ice this weekend for training ahead of qualifying next week.
“We’ve been approached by many nations with extra equipment, coaching staff and we’re extremely thankful,” she told the AFP news agency. “The Canadians have offered assistance.”
The first race is on Tuesday, and Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and Carrie Russell will become Jamaica’s first female winter Olympians next week if they do take part.
Their journey has been compared to Jamaica’s men’s team also making history at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, a feat that inspired the 1993 film Cool Runnings.