By Kayon Raynor
The Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation and their Japanese equipment sponsor Shitamachi are locked in a legal battle just under two weeks before Jamaica's history-making female team makes its debut in the two-woman sled event at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
President of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation Chris Stokes, speaking with RJR Sports from Hong Kong on Thursday afternoon, gave a brief update. “All I can say on the record to you, because I’m under orders from an attorney, is that we are in discussions with Shitamachi to resolve the issue,” he said.
A report carried by the Japanese Times quoted Junichi Hosogai, an official of the Shitamachi Committee as saying that they have "entered a stage where we must discuss legal issues." This as they explore the possibility of seeking compensation from the Jamaican team for breaching the contract between them.
The question over possible legal repercussions over Jamaica’s alleged breach of the contract with Shitamachi was put to Stokes. “We feel that within the contract, we have valid reasons to seek to resolve issues that have arisen that are not specifically mentioned in the contract,” said Stokes.
Information reaching RJR Sports is that Jamaica's team used a Latvian-manufactured sled for the last four of their 10 competitions to move up in the standings and eventually qualify for the Winter Games. While Stokes would not give any details as to why they are opting to move away from using the Shitamachi sled, RJR Sports understands that it has failed two material checks and that it could prove unsafe for the athletes.
Meanwhile, national sprinter Audra Segree is expected to carry Jamaica’s flag during the opening ceremony as the 23rd Winter Olympics begin in Pyeongchang on Friday. Jamaica will be represented in women's bobsleigh and the men's skeleton events.
Segree will be joined by fellow national sprinter and World Championship relay gold medalist Carrie Russell and Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, the pilot who has Olympic experience. They will bow into action on February 20. Skeleton rider Anthony Watson will represent the country after only being confirmed two weeks ago.
Reports out of South Korea say the games are set to be the coldest in history. The build-up has seen relations thaw between North and South Korea, with the countries fielding a joint women's ice hockey team, while there has been controversy over the 169 Russian athletes set to compete as neutrals. More than 3,000 athletes will compete in 102 medal events in 15 sports over 17 days. Around 77% of tickets have been sold - approximately 826,000 - across the 13 venues in South Korea.