A Miami act: Jamaican bobsled team member Winston Watts

Winston Watts (left) JON KRAL MIAMI HERALD FILE

Winston Watts (left) JON KRAL MIAMI HERALD FILE

After competing in four Olympics, Winston Watts is taking on a new career: acting.

Watts, who led the Jamaican bobsled team in four Olympics over 20 years, is set to film a scene Thursday in Ballers, a new HBO series starring actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that looks at the stories of current and former football players. The Rock played football at the University of Miami before going into professional wrestling and then acting.

But even after making his way to Florida, Watts said, if asked he would go back to the Olympics “in a heartbeat.”

“I have such a passion for bobsledding,” he said. “I’m a go-getter. I’m not afraid of anything.”

For now though, Watts said he’s focusing on acting.

“I’m hoping in the future that I get more movie scenes,” he said. “I will dedicate myself to do a lot more movies. It doesn’t matter what movie it is. I’m a very flexible person.”

Watts said he got into acting partly because of his love for movies, naming 1993’s Cool Runnings as one of his favorites. The movie, set during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, features the first Jamaican bobsled team. In its first year, the team crashed and did not officially finish.

But that didn’t stop them from going back.

Watts said he has seen the movie “uncountable times,” and in many different languages.

“It was a stunning movie,” he said. “I still watch that movie as if it’s the first time I’m seeing it.”

Before Watts went to his first Olympics in 1994, he was enlisted in the Jamaican army, where he was a top athlete. He played soccer and did discus and shotput training. He knew nothing about bobsledding at the time. In 1993, one of his teammates told him about the sport.

“When I looked into it, it’s very challenging, mentally, physically,” he said. “And I’m all up for that.”

After that, he began his training. He said training for the Olympics was different from the military because it involved more “explosive work” and sprinting.

In 1994, Watts went to Lillehammer, Norway, where he made his Olympics debut.

“There’s no word to explain how I felt walking out in that opening circle when they announced the Jamaica team,” he said. “Competing in that 1994 Olympics has turned my life around so much.”

The Jamaican bobsled team came in 14th in 1994. Watts went to the Olympics again in 1998, 2002 and 2014. But his last appearance was unexpected for him.

After the 2002 Olympics, where his team came in 28th, he decided to retire to spend time with his family and pursue other work, he said. He called himself a “man of many different things.”

“Whatever makes me happy, I love to do,” he said, naming playing sports and fixing cars as two of his favorite pastimes.

He sat out for two Olympics in 2006 and 2010 and saw younger teams failing to qualify. During that time, he said he would often go to the 2002 bobsleigh track in Utah Olympic Park.

“So the rest of the world knew Winston Watts and the shape that I’m in,” he said. “They always say, ‘Why don’t you come back and compete for Jamaica and try to make it to Olympics. Show these young guys how it’s done.’”

Watts said he didn’t take long to make up his mind.

“I decided ‘well yes,’” he said, “It’s going to be hard, so I’m going to try it. And I decided I’m not going to try, I’m going to do it.”

He came out of retirement in 2010, and captained a team for the Sochi Winter Olympics.

In 2014, he again qualified for the Olympics and competed for the fourth time. That year, he ran into many obstacles and had to fund the team on his own in the beginning, he said. About two weeks before the games, he ran out of money.

He said he thought about quitting, but then turned to his fans and friends for donations and made it to Sochi. Watts’ team finished 29th in the games, but Watts doesn’t look at it as a loss.

“I tell everyone I won the Olympic Medal,” he said. “The reason being, because I sat out for 12 years. It was such a rocky road to qualify and I made it to the Olympics.”

Watts said he is excited to try out acting and is going to give his new career “the biggest shot ever.”

“As long as they want, I’ll just keep going,” he said. “I have all the energy.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article9170093.html#storylink=cpy

About the Author

Rebecca is a social services reporter at The Frederick News-Post. She graduated from Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and political science. She served as Managing Editor, Summer Editor-In-Chief and Campus Editor at The Daily Northwestern and previously interned at The Miami Herald.