Daniel Mayhew, a Charlemont High School student, became the first Jamaican to qualify for the Winter Youth Olympics. The St Catherine native will also be the first Jamaican among 14 other nationals to compete at the first international monobob at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics.
The Monobob, a new discipline introduced January 2015, will make its premiere at the games this Saturday, February 20 in Lillehammer, Norway. The 17-year-old Jamaican, who competed in Switzerland, Austria, and Norway last year, is currently ranked 22nd in the world.
“The experience in Switzerland was new for me,” he said, before adding, “It was really cold.” But the freezing conditions had not frozen his dream. If anything, his desire had grown because of his first experience.
A Monobob is a bobsleigh operated by one person alone — not the traditional two or four. This might make it a greater challenge, but it also makes it easier for more people compete in the event, and practice without the need of a teammate to coordinate with.
Daniel Mayhew aims for Jamaican bobsleigh history
“I feel extraordinary,” Mayhew said. “I feel proud, and I just hope to do my best and come out on top.”
When Mayhew travelled to Austria for his second competition last December, it was also his second time on ice. “I had to depend on memory to get me through the runs,” he explained. Run after run Mayhew recorded his fastest times at his final qualifying meet in Lillehammer, at the same venue where he will compete against 14 of the world’s best youth on Saturday, February 20, 2016.
Mayhew, a boy with his sights set on becoming a commercial pilot, will try to make history again, one that will go beyond the sentiment of an island boy on ice, but rather provide a performance worthy of a medal. He will attempt to win Jamaica’s first Olympic Winter Games medal at any level, which will make him more famous than Cool Runnings — a movie about the Jamaican four-man bobsleigh team that reached the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.
He had only started the sport a year ago, in February 2015, and had just one competition in Switzerland that marked his first appearance on ice. But in his wide, bright eyes, you could see hope and belief. There was confidence in him.
The 17-year-old was less than enthusiastic when his physical education teacher first suggested the student take up bobsleigh. Coaching the sport for the first time, Harry Nelson spotted Daniel while he was running during one of his physical education classes. “He is a bright kid, so it was basically getting him not to think about it but just to do it,” the coach said.
“I was like, ‘I’m not doing that’ because of the cold and everything, and I didn’t want it to affect school and stuff like that,” Mayhew recalled.
Mayhew started the journey with two young female athletes, but a lack of funding meant the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation could only support one bobsledder, and he was thought to have the best shot at qualifying. He proved his Federation right. Months later, after two more trips to Europe, he secured his place for the Lillehammer 2016 YOG.