(Update: The Jamaican bobsled team finished 29th out of 30 at the Sochi Olympics.)
As one of the oldest athletes to compete at this year’s winter Olympics, Winston Watts, 46, isn’t aiming for a particular result. Instead, the captain of the Jamaican bobsled team will simply do his job (now that the team's equipment arrived in Sochi belatedly).
“If you go out there and you execute, the result will come,” says Watts.
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This is his fourth Olympics. While Watts may seem like a long shot to bring home a medal, he’s sure that his experience will help him. By now, he knows not to let the hype of the games get to his head, how to control his emotions and the best ways to execute his game plan.
Watts tells those who doubt he can hold his own in the world’s toughest competition the same mantra he repeats to himself: “Age is just a number.” He feels good, so why slow down?
Return to Racing
A veteran of the 1994, 1998 and 2002 games, Watts had retired and moved to Evanston, Wyo. to take care of his family and work as a “normal citizen.”
But in 2010, he decided to return to bobsledding and captain the two-man team from Jamaica. The team’s Olympic beginnings as an underdog in the Calgary games — not only were they from a tropical climate, they also had very little experience actually racing down the track — has made them fan favorites through the years and inspired the 1993 film Cool Runnings.
Even when he was retired, Watts remained interested in the sport, frequently watching races at the bobsled track leftover from the Salt Lake City games which were held 60 miles from his home.
He also got a push from his best friend and old teammate, Lascelles Brown, who had moved to Canada and continued in the sport. When Brown would come down to Salt Lake City to compete, Watts would help him warm up and watch his races.
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Over time, Brown urged Watts to get back in the sled. So did Paul Skog, an attorney friend from Evanston, who helped send the Jamaican team to the Nagano and Salt Lake Olympics. With their prodding, Watts decided to come out of retirement.
“I took a second look at it. I didn’t get the opportunity that I wanted when I was doing it the first times. So now I think I will achieve my goal,” Watts says.
A Great Body
Even during his eight years off, Watts stayed in shape, putting in regular workouts and maintaining his athleticism. “I want to look good,” he says, laughing.
Although he was fit, he had to step up his workout routine significantly before getting back in the sled, running more and lifting heavier weights. But he was so eager and excited to get back on the track, he claims not to have minded.
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“Over the years, what you put into your body, that’s the reaction your body has when you get older," he says. "I really do take care of my body. I work really hard, of course, and the more that I work, and the more active that I am, the more I can stay in shape and have such a great, great modeling body.”
Watts admits he isn't immune to nervous energy, though. “I have butterflies in my tummy because I am so anxious," he concedes.
3 Ways Watts Inspires Us
The 46-year-old Jamaican bobsledder is inspiring, particularly to people in midlife, for three reasons:
1. His healthy lifestyle. Watts not only keeps physically active, he also eats wisely. He doesn't follow a special diet, but instead eats whole foods — ones that have been processed or refined as little as possible and contain no additives or other artifical substances. That's mainly because he prefers them. He avoids sugar because he doesn't like sweets.
“I don’t like to eat out. I am a very good cook. Even if I get home and I am tired, I still have the energy to cook. I am going to cook what I want,” he says.
2. His goal setting. Watts made a pledge to himself and ignored the naysayers claiming he was too old. "If you have a goal it takes dedication [to achieve it]. It’s only you who can push yourself to that level that you want. Other people can say what they can say about your age, but don’t mind them. You have a goal, just reach out for your goal," says Watts.
3. His positive attitude. Watts’s gung-ho optimism is admirable, even if he brushes it off as just part of his personality. Recalling gowing up in a poor community in Jamaica, he says: “If you don’t stay positive there is no such way you can more forward in life. You will just stand still like water, which is not moving.”