(NEW YORK) — British-born Benjamin Alexander had never put on a pair of skis until the age of 32. Only six years later, and he’s now going for gold next month in Beijing as Jamaica’s first Olympic alpine skier.
It didn’t come easily, he said.
“I hit the ground like 20 plus times on my first time skiing. I absolutely was not a natural,” Alexander told ABC News Live Prime on Tuesday. “But I was tenacious, and I had grit and determination. I really wanted to get good enough to ski with my friends. And so I just kept trying, and little by little, one step at a time, I got better and better.”
Alexander said he was inspired by the legendary 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, which marked the first time the Caribbean nation had ever competed in the Winter Olympics. He said former Olympian Dudley Stokes, who was the pilot of the 1988 team, became a personal mentor of his.
“It’s just incredible to have someone who basically wrote the book ‘I’m Doing Outlandish Things for a Caribbean Nation in the Winter Games’ … just giving me advice along the way,” he said.
For the past two and a half years, Alexander said he’s been training as a full-time athlete in thanks to sport sponsorships. He said that despite some setbacks, such as mountain closures due to the pandemic, he’s ready to compete.
“I’ve been planning meticulously to get to this point, and sometimes when you actually get to the place you’ve been looking at for so long, it feels weird to have arrived, so surreal is the one word I’ve been using,” he said.
Alexander said his identity as a mixed-race skier is what motivated him to represent Jamaica instead of the U.K.
“You always represent the minority of any group you’re in, at any given time. That can change, second by second, room by room. So if I’m with my white friends, I’m the Black guy, and with my Black friends, I’m the white guy,” Alexander said. “As a skier, in the predominantly white sport of skiing, I was always the Black representative.”
Along with representation, Alexander said he also wants his story to prove that it’s never too late to start something new.
“You think something has passed you by, that you should have started it when you were younger … I call you on that,” he said. “You can do that thing that you thought was impossible. At least give it a try.”
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