If you ask me for my favourite movvie of all time, I don't have to think too much. It's a little known movie called 'Cool Runnings' featuring Leon and John Candy, which was released in 1993. No movie has inspired me more in my 'short' life. On Sunday morning, I got a chance to watch the movie again on Satellite TV, and as I move into this new phase in my life, I know that I'm going to need to exhibit tenacity, determination and simple faith to make it over the next few months.
Cool runnings in the true-story of the first ever Jamaican bobsled team from the Calgary Olympics in 1988, how, against all the odds, they got there and how they taught the world what the Olympics is all about.
Derise Banner was a sprinter who dreamed of going to the Olympics. His late father had won a gold medal 20 years earlier, and he was preparing for the qualifying trials for Seoul '88. At the trials, a 'rich-boy' called Junior Bevel fell over during the race, and tripped Derise and a guy called Yul Brenner, and the three of them could not complete the race. Disappointed, Derise went to plead with the head of the Jamaican Olympic organisers. ("I was born to compete in the Olympics!" he said) While he was in the man's office, he saw a picture of his father with a man. He was told that the man was currently living in Jamaica, and that 20 years ago, he had a theory that using sprinters for bobsledding would help to get a good push start, and hence they would have a good chance of winning. Derise's dad didn't take up his offer.
Derise went to met this American (played by John Candy), and found a man who had become a drunk. After hounding him for a whole day, he finally agreed to coach the bobsled team. The team had 4 very colourful characters:
Derise: The leader of the 'rat-pack'. He was determined, and hardly ever got discouraged. The entire thing was his idea. All he ever wanted to do was compete in the Olympics, and he did it. When the Jamaican Olympics chairman refused to give John Candy the $20,000 required for them to register for the competition, Derise was unfazed.
Derise: Don't worry we'll get the money.
Candy: Do the words 'give up' mean anything to you?
Derise: Not a thing (And he was smiling all through!)
Sanca: Derise's best friend. He was the go-cart champion of JAMAICA, a clown and the only 'non-sprinter' in the team. Sanca was loyal to Derise, and when Derise started getting carried away at the Olympics, Sanca was the person who got him in order, and gave the team 'the spirit of Jamaica!'. Whenever they crashed the sled, or when Sanca had an 'accident' in his go-kart, the following conversation took place.
Derise: Hey Sanca, you dead?
Sanca: Ya man......
Yul Brenner: A tough guy. Muscular. But a man with big dreams. Yul wanted to compete in the Olympics, so he could win a gold medal, become famous, and leave Jamaica. Junior killed that dream when he tripped him during the trials. So Yul joined them, just to leave the island. He carried a picture in his wallet, of the house he was planning to live in when he left Jamaica. Turns out it was a picture of Buckingham Palace, so unless he was planning on marrying the queen, he could never live there. What I admire about his character is the fact that he was not ready to settle for the Status Quo, he was dreaming of becoming better than his environment, and was ready to try anything to do it.
Junior Bevel: The 'rich-kid'. Yul hated him (at first, they become best friends after a while), blaming him for not qualifying for the summer olympics as a sprinter. Junior's dad had gotten him a 'proper' job at "Webster, Webster and Cohen". But Junior had dreams of being an Olympian. He was a quiet, shy, soft-spoken guy, who tried his best to please everyone. But when the team needed $20,000 to register, Junior sold his car, a massive sacrifice, told his dad that the car was with a friend and that he was going on holiday to Miami. He later had to confront his dad, and tell him that he was a grown man, able to make decisions on his own. (After Yul had toughened him up).
And of course the coach. He had won 2 gold medals, and set 9 world records. But in 1972, he cheated by placing weights in the sled to make it go faster, and he was disquailified, and stripped of his gold medal. When they got to Calgary, he met up with people he hadn't seen in years, including his coach who had not yet forgiven him.
The team practised on a dusty hill, in a 'bathtub on wheels' for a sled. After raising the money to go, Candy was able to buy a ricketty sled the Americans had used to practice. Despite all the odds, they qualified to compete with the best in the world. But everyone was laughing at them everywhere they went, and it took inner strength for them to go as far as they did. Everyone hated them, and everyone hated their coach.
But compete they did! After one 'dodgy' performance, the team suddenly began to show the stuff they were made of, and qualified for the finals (down to the best 8 teams). By now, the world had fallen in love with them, and the two commentators for the final were wearing "Team Jamaica" t-shirts. They were actually in with a chance to win a medal !! Their final run was spectacular, and it looked like they were going to do it! But their old, ricketty sled finally gave up and the steering came loose, and they crashed. They were a few hundrer yards from the finish line.
Sanca: Hey Derise, you dead?
Derise: No man. But I have to finish this race.
What happened next is still regarded as one of the greatest ever Olympic moments of all time. The four men got up, carried the sled on their shoulders, and walked across to the finish line, to the raptous applause of the entire world. People cried, and everyone remembered that the Olympics was not about winning, but about competing.
Why do I love the movie? Because it reminds us that when you are determined, and never give up, the sky is the limit. It's a real motivational story, and the fact that it's not a work of fiction makes you realise that yes, you can make it if you try.
So anyone who wants to get me a gift will do well to get me a copy of a Cool Runnings DVD (don't know if it's available, but once I settle in the UK, I plan to look for it!) for a gift.