This retired DJ is Jamaica’s first Olympic alpine skier – and he made his debut in Canada


The first time Benjamin Alexander went to a ski resort, he was just there to party and play music. He now heads to the Beijing Winter Olympics to represent Jamaica on the slopes.

The 38-year-old — who put on his first pair of skis six years ago in British Columbia — has become the first Jamaican to qualify for alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics.

“I owe Canada a lot for my skiing experience,” said Alexander As it happens host Carol Off.

Alexander, who grew up in the UK and is of Jamaican descent, will compete in the giant slalom event in Beijing in February.

Learn to fall and get up

He got his first taste of ski culture during a Christmas trip to a resort in Revelstoke, British Columbia, in 2015 with his pals. He was there, he said, to DJ and party.

“I was just there, like you know, a house cat, making sure the beer was cold, making sure the hot tub was hot and, you know, I was eating too much,” he said.

Then one day he and his friends took a helicopter to the top of the mountain to have lunch with the skiers.

“And at the end of that lunch, I saw my friends jump on the 130 millimeter powder skis and disappear over the ridge line,” he said. “I thought it turned them into superheroes.”

Alexander did not start skiing until he was 32 years old. (Savo Prelevic/AFP/Getty Images)

He then decided that his days of watching the margin were over. Just two months later, he took his first ski lessons in Whistler, BC. He was 32 years old.

“I crashed 27 times in that first run, and I think most sane people would have said, it’s okay. It’s not for me,” he said.

“I saw 27 as a base number to improve on, and just spent the rest of the day on that same run…and brought it down to seven [falls] At the end of the day.”

Inspired by Cool races

Less than a month after skiing, Alexander was preparing his way to the Olympics. He says he was inspired by the 1993 film Cool races, based on a true story about Jamaica’s first bobsled team at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

“Growing up in England and this movie that came out when I was 10 was one of the greatest feelings of pride in being a Jamaican that I had when I was young,” he said.

Dudley Stokes, the driver of this historic team, has since become one of Alexander’s mentors.

Stokes says he first discovered Alexander in 2020 during a virtual livestream from cool races, where the Olympic hopeful repeatedly commented on his sporting goals and desire to hit base with Stokes.

At first, Stokes says he was suspicious. But Alexander persisted and eventually Stokes’ daughter convinced him to have a talk with this young man who idolized her.

“And within minutes I realized he was the real deal,” Stokes said.

The couple have been in regular contact ever since, with the four-time Olympian offering his best advice and guidance.

“Having him on my team has not only validated my journey for those watching what I do from the outside, but he’s been such an informative source,” Alexander said.

“After all, he wrote the book on extravagant activities as a Caribbean during the Winter Games.”

Jamaican four-man bobsled pilot Dudley Stokes steps in as his three teammates race off to the start of the second round of the Olympic four-man bobsleigh event in 1988. (George Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)

Stokes is one of many people who have helped Alexander on his journey, he said. Another is Mike Schneider, an Ontario ski coach he met on Reddit, who helped him navigate the complex web of Olympic qualifying.

“Benjamin reminded me that with a lot of enthusiasm and hard work, anything is possible in ski racing. As crazy as his idea was two years ago, his enthusiasm hooked me and I knew I had to help as much as I could,” Scheider said in an email.

“I can’t wait to see it at the opening ceremony and live on TV on the day of the big race. It’s such an inspiring story.”

His other mentor is American skier Gordon Gray, whom he met in 2019.

“I said to Gordon, ‘I have this crazy dream of maybe going to the Olympics, but I don’t know what that means or what that entails. Can you see me skiing and tell me what what do you think?’ A few hours later, at lunchtime, he said to me, “Benji, you have the worst skiing technique I’ve ever seen. It’s atrocious. It’s an abomination to watch,” Alexander said.

But he also saw that Alexander was not afraid of anything.

“He paused and said, ‘I think you’ve won more than half the battle. We can teach you the technique, but if you’re scared, no matter how good your technique, you’ll never be good. in this sport.'”

As it happens contacted Gray for comment.

When asked what advice he had for Alexander, Stokes said he hoped he would honor Jamaica by giving it his best. But, he says he shouldn’t focus too much on the medals. It is more important to remember the experience and the people he meets along the way.

That shouldn’t be a problem for Alexander.

“I would say [my chances of winning a medal are] slim to none, but that would be optimistic. I’m competing against people who have been skiing since they were two years old, who have been racing for 20 years and whose national ski federations have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their development. My first race was only two years ago,” he said.

“My story is really about participating and helping the next generation of Jamaicans do much better than me.”

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Benjamin Alexander directed by Chris Trowbridge.


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