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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    East Eden, west of hell
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    Mi claim tuh fame

    Mi claim tuh fame his mi was in deh same year ah Munro wid Chris Stokes... wid did Alevel Maths, Chemistry and General Paper together..... Wi usta hargue bout ebriting...

    Still im duh well.... Inna one inta mural debate him get nasty inna deh rebuttal pan mi team mate who ketch stage fright an neva sey ah ting nat ah word fi 3 minutes...hera him inna rebuttal " I failed to get the point of the third speaker"... Suh mi lick im wid ah Wahallaism... "The rebutter was singularlyu rude and ungentlemanly in his speech" dat bring deh house down....

    They are a talented family....


    Dudley and Chris Stokes: Setting Olympic ice on fire with Jamaican audacity


    Sunday, July 11, 2004




    In the very distant past, geologists claim, there was evidence that it snowed on Jamaica's Blue Mountain peak. That certainly has not happened in our lifetime. We know that it is freezing cold up there. But to experience the icy chill of winter and view the vast endless sheets of pure-white snow, Jamaicans must usually journey to northern climes. Nobody therefore, expects Jamaicans to participate, let alone excel, in winter sports.
    Somebody should have told that to Dudley Clifford Talmagie Stokes and his younger brother, Nelson Christian Stokes before they completely embarrassed the giants of bobsledding (bobsleigh in English) and opened an unusual chapter in raw Jamaican audacity. But just as well they didn't. Otherwise the brothers might have contemplated the enormity of the task and lost nerve. Truly, it is said, faint heart never won fair maiden. Their exploits at the Winter Olympics, far from establishing them as the clowns they were expected to be, captured the imagination of the world and won hearts everywhere, inspiring a successful movie, a book and a generation of Jamaicans.

    But the story of Dudley, 'Tal' to his good friends, and Christian 'Chris' Stokes is also one of struggle and overcoming everyday challenges. And Chris, in particular, still wakes up daily to face the anguish of losing his wife and the mother of his children - two girls - to an untimely death last year. As he mourns the death of his schoolgirl love and the still-born son he cherishes in memory, how cruelly far away it seems now from the day when in triumph he rode in a parade through Warrenton, Virginia to accept the honour from the Mayor of Washington DC who had named December 4, 2003 Nelson Christian Stokes Day for his work among youth.
    These are two men whose lives were touched by fate and destined, it seemed, to be more than the sons of a preacher man and a teacher-mother, both of whom would achieve their own prominence as they charted separate courses in later life. Dudley finds fulfilment in joint ownership with his wife in their business, and Chris moves like a man on a mission in his job as a vice-president at the powerful Victoria Mutual Building Society.


    Dudley Stokes
    Tenuous hold on life

    Dudley was born in the Turks and Caicos Islands on June 22, 1962, 18 months apart from Chris who was born at the Nuttall Memorial in Kingston on November 2, 1963. Five years later on May 1, 1968, their sister, Ann-Marie Teresa Stokes, followed. Their parents are the Rev Dr Dudley Stokes, former editor-in-chief of The Gleaner and Blossom O'Mealy Nelson, the current postmaster general. At the time of Dudley's birth, Rev and Mrs Stokes were doing missionary duties in the Turks and Caicos. While pregnant with Chris, she took ill and was forced to return to Jamaica to have the child. Chris was born with a condition called pyloric stenosis in which his food was not being digested and he kept throwing up everything he ate. Doctors had to operate on him within three weeks of birth to save his life. For him, he says now, "every day of life is a brawta".
    The family came home when Rev Stokes was called to the Emmanuel Baptist Church in St Mary. The children went to St Cyprian's Preparatory and from there to Port Maria Primary where they got an appreciation for the outdoors and growing up in the countryside. For Dudley, his class teacher, Miss Morgan stood out for stirring their interest in current affairs. He also remembers Garfield Wallows, who became one of the early Jamaicans to play for Crystal Palace in the English football league and Oral Hyre, the outstanding Boys' Town footballer.

    Jimmy Adams, John Mears


    Chris Stokes
    They recall watching their neighbour, Dr Adams, bowl tennis balls at his son, Jimmy Adams, the Jamaican and West Indian cricketer, and being close to John Mears, the former Jamaica sprinter and current Jamaica College coach. At age seven, Chris discovered that he could run when he would easily beat boys even twice his age on the Galina playing field. Dudley, who had always encouraged and pushed his younger sibling, used to pick people for him to run against, but the fun ended when a girl he picked beat Chris. But he continued to win all the organised races at school, church and community levels.

    At Calabar

    Tal was first up for the Common Entrance Examination and went to St Mary High School where he was schoolmates with athletes like Jacqui Pusey and Andre Gillette, son of former People's National Party member of parliament, Terry Gillette. When Rev Stokes was transferred to become head of Calabar Extension School in Kingston, they moved again, Dudley going to Calabar and Chris to St Richard's Primary. One of the persons who would had the biggest influence on Dudley was Alty McKoy, a football coach at C'bar. The brothers, because they lived on the compound, would go to football training during the summer.
    "His (McKoy's) attitude to life had a big impact on me and my attitude to training," says Dudley. "Football was constantly second in my life, and he told me that if I wanted to be good at it, I would have to make it number one." Coach Charlie Francis of Ben Johnson fame later reinforced that when he said "part-time athlete (gets) part-time results".

    Herb McKenley,
    Donald Quarrie

    While still at St Richard's, Chris discovered that he had a great fear of public-speaking, ironic because now he is a sought-after motivational speaker here and abroad, though he confesses that the first two or three minutes of a speech are the hardest, even now. After Common Entrance in 1976, Chris joined his brother at C'bar and became a part of the Class Three 4X100 relay team the year C'bar broke Kingston College's unbeaten run at Boys Champs. He also cherishes the memories of working with Herb McKenley, the Jamaican sports icon and his lifelong mentor.
    He remembers being caught up in the excitement of the time when Jamaica's Donald Quarrie won the 200m sprint at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. His time would come, if only he knew it. Chris recalls too that he had a tough time at Calabar, mainly because he suffered from a deadly combination of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity. He learned fast but got bored even more quickly and this caused him to get into frequent trouble. This was not good for the son of a man who was both a preacher and the headmaster of the school. On one occasion, he was suspended from the Bethel Baptist Church Sunday school!

    Toughing it out at Cornwall College

    Not long after, their father was transferred to Cornwall College in Montego Bay to be the headmaster. Dudley had just finished O' levels and, with CC no longer having a sixth form, he was sent to Montego Bay Community College (Commcoll). But as his father was principal, he got to play on the CC DaCosta Cup football team. He went to Commcoll with the outstanding student Leighton McKnight whom he describes as "a walking encyclopaedia on sports", now a partner in PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and the very bright Lorraine Roget, also a partner there.
    For third-former Chris, life in the second city marked the "two worst years of my life". "It was generally horrible. You don't want to go to a school where your father is the headmaster," he says seriously. "Especially when you suffer from behavioural problems." He became a recluse. But one of the positives was that he also discovered he could write well and later was able to contribute short stories to the Jamaica Observer's Literary Arts section. That talent blossomed, and after he gained world fame at Bobsledding he wrote the book Cool Runnings and Beyond: The Story of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Team. And he continued to excel at sports, representing Cornwall at Champs and football. Most importantly, in Montego Bay, at a Youth For Christ meeting, Chris met Michelle Sterling, head girl of Montego Bay High School and the woman he would make his wife.

    Join the army and see the world

    At this point, the lives of Dudley and Chris Stokes began to take their separate turns. Having a keen, if unusual interest in war history, Dudley had yearned for a life in the army. He joined the Jamaica Defence Force Airwing right after O' levels in 1980, deciding that he wanted to fly the helicopter which he saw as the battlefield weapon of the future. His first training assignment was at Newcastle where he would experience "possibly the most difficult period of my life", learning to meet the physical demands of army life, adjust to the lack of sleep, doing all his domestic chores for himself and acquiring life skills, such as learning to steal food "without being caught" when rations were never enough to satisfy his hunger. But more, much more awaited Dudley Stokes.
    The army introduced integrated training and among the first batch of women to train with the men was a certain Denyse Muir. When he saw her, his heart skipped a beat. He watched her as she progressed, noticing how she had placed as overall runner-up for best shot. But he had not made his decisive move as yet. Not long after, he was sent to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in the United Kingdom to spend what he says was a delightful 18 months.

    Daddy Stokes begs
    for Chris

    Back at Cornwall College, Chris was having a rough time. His ADD was worse than ever. In fourth form, his average was 41 per cent and his mother angrily yanked him out of school, saying he would probably do better as a mechanic's apprentice. Daddy Stokes begged for him and got him back into fifth form, where he surprised everybody by bagging eight O' levels with mostly As and Bs. He was sent to Munro for sixth form and still brightens up when he confesses how much he loved it there as a boarder. Out from under the shadow of a formidable father figure, he became an extrovert, relishing the rustic setting, the majesty of the Malvern hills and the cool misty mornings. He cried "like a baby" when he left in 1982.
    At Munro, his athletic ability sharpened; he played sweeper for the DaCosta Cup team in 1981 and got called up for the All-DaCosta team. He also made the Munro Boys Champs track team, placing second in the Class One 100m in front of the likes of Raymond Stewart and Gregory Meghoo who later won medals for Jamaica at the Olympics. And he passed his 'A' levels without difficulty. Chris had found a new lease on life and he was on fire. But, he was to face another hurdle, this time a condition called scoliosis or curvature of the spine which, in time, would severely hamper and then scuttle his track career.

    Wicked news

    In fact, a month before he was to leave for the University of Maryland on a track scholarship organised by David Haughton, he got the wicked news that because of the condition, the scholarship was being withdrawn. He was sent instead to New York Junior College in the Bronx Community College, graduating magna cum laude with an associate degree in liberal arts. While there he lived with his aunt, Evadne Blake, and more importantly, he continued to run, making the National Junior College Championships in Texas. Yet again, injury plagued him and he was forced to drop out of the 100m in the preliminary stage.
    At the end of college in 1984, Chris returned to Jamaica and worked for a short time as a playmaker at Sandals MoBay. With a full scholarship, in January 1985, he went to the University of Idaho where he saw more snow than he had ever seen before, remembering that when he got off the plane, snow was shovelled up to the window. But he saw no particular significance in that. Not yet anyway. He would come to love the Idaho town, Moscow, in which he lived, noting that he had arrived there with only a knapsack on his back, but when he left there 12 years later, he sold two cars, a house and two apartments. In Idaho, he also did well in athletics, winning student athlete of the year in his second year, and in academics was All-American, finishing top of the class in a calculus exam and graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor in Finance. He learnt to hunt bear, frequently went kayaking and made great friends with Dave Smith, a Clarendon College old boy who now lives in South Florida.

    Loving it at Sandhurst

    Dudley too was having a good time at Sandhurst. He formed solid friendships with William Warren, William Pearson-Gee and William Carey, the latter two were so well placed that they received personal invitations to the wedding of the late Princess Diana. Dudley completed his training and returned to Up Park Camp as a 2nd Lt and was promptly assigned to the airwing, followed not long after with a transfer to the First Battalion Jamaica Regiment.
    Next he was off to flying school at the Canadian armed forces base at Portage-La-Prairie, a place he says was located in the middle of nowhere and "where the mosquitoes there would eat animals". It was an exciting place to be, though, with multi-million dollar machines he enjoyed flying. There were many other Jamaican soldiers there and they were protected by a Jamaican officer there called Barry Bonito, the now Mandeville business partner of Diana McIntyre-Pike. At the base, he was reunited with two of his Newcastle batch mates, Francis Millwood and Hopeton Staples. But more significantly, they were joined there by none other than Denyse Muir, his future wife! In that same year, she left the army and he proposed. They now have three children - Christian, 12; Teresa, 11 and Michael, 6.

    Bobsled madness

    At the end of his training, Dudley returned to Up Park Camp, but was soon finding that "there was not much to do and you had a lot of time on your hands". "In fact, army life is all downhill after the training. So I spent much of the time achieving a high level of fitness," he recalls. He had not, of course, seen the script. Because around the same time, two Americans, George Fitch, who was working out of the US embassy in Kingston, and William Maloney, husband of Theresa Issa and now living in Jamaica, had decided they would like to be involved in an Olympic sport. This was 1987. They went to Mike Fennel, head of the Jamaica Olympic Association and Maloney's landlord. He advised them that they should find a sport that Jamaicans did not already do, form a federation, meet the qualifying standards, get acceptance from the sport's governing body and then come back.
    Maloney was a former top-10 ranked junior tennis player in the US and he knew it took serious effort to achieve your goal. But tennis was not yet an Olympic sport. As he contemplated the task at hand, he was suddenly hit by an idea. Maloney had seen some Jamaican boys racing their push-carts like mad down asphalted slopes in an organised race called the push-cart derby. The idea hit him like a bomb. "Bobsledding!" he thought. "We could enter the next winter Olympics - in February 1988. Why not?" The push-cart race had all the makings of bobsledding, minus the snow.
    But when Maloney tried to find athletes, everybody looked at him as if "what's wrong with this man?" Then he got another idea - the JDF. Col Ken Barnes, who was in charge of sports, decided to go along with his suggestion and ordered some soldiers to train in bobsledding under Maloney's guidance. Barnes didn't make much of the fact that this was September and the Olympic games were just three months away! Maloney wanted someone to drive a bobsled, but he had to be athletic and have good hand-eye co-ordination. He had just the right man for it. Lt Dudley Stokes was as fit as a fiddle. Like a true soldier, Stokes followed orders, not stopping to question his superior. But he was in for the ride of his life.

    Eyes on J'can Olympics track team

    Chris, in the meantime, felt he had done well in Idaho and was looking to stay there for a while. But Dudley, who was always looking out for him, encouraged him to come home. He adored his brother and so decided to go and see what was there for him. During the summer, he got a job in the accounts department of the now-defunct Workers Bank where, he says, he learnt a lot. But he decided he wanted to do his MBA and enrolled at Washington State University. While there he started training, hoping to make the Jamaican track team to the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
    Then the phone rang and it was Dudley on the line. He wasn't sure he had heard right, but Dudley said he had been training on ice, first in Lake Placid, Upstate New York and then in Calgary, Canada. He was getting ready to enter the winter Olympics in bobsledding. "Well, my brother was always a brave man and he was a good athlete," he thought, and he wished him well. But the time did seem a bit short. It usually took three years to train properly for this kind of sport. Not only was the time short. What Chris did not know at the time was the fact that his brother, along with his team-mates - Devon Harris, Michael White and Samuel Clayton - were living a hand-to-mouth existence, sharing one hotel room and training with substandard equipment. Maloney was bank-rolling the training out of his pocket and Fitch did not have any money, though he spent more time with the team. Coaching was often via the telephone.
    "Looking back, I was incredibly naïve," Dudley reflects. "I really bought what I was sold. I did not see it as a problem. But it's a lesson I carry in life now, and it is that ignorance and confidence are critical elements that one should keep close at all times. You should know everything you need to learn but have no imagination when it comes to the possible outcome. If you allow yourself to contemplate failure, most things won't get done."

    Ice on fire

    Still not fully sanguine about what they had gotten themselves into, the team went to Igls in Austria to qualify by the December 1987 deadline. and did! Time magazine ran a picture of the team that made it despite the absence of snow back in their home country. That launched a bobsled craze that would rise and rise to hitherto unimagined heights. The requests for interviews came fast and thick. Memorabilia appeared from out of nowhere. "We became enormously popular for all the wrong reasons. But we decided to enjoy it while it lasted," Dudley admits.
    But not everybody could keep a straight face. Many laughed and ridiculed them. Some said they had taken a joke too far. But their daring caught the imagination of the world and by the time they got to the games, they were already a phenomenon.
    Chris went to Calgary to witness the opening of the Winter Olympics. Back at Washington State a week later, he was preparing for a big athletic meet, when he got a frantic call from his brother. A member of the four-man team, the man providing the speed, was injured and he needed a replacement, could he come right away? They quarrelled a bit about it, but made up and Chris left for Calgary, arriving the Monday. "The following day, Tuesday was the first time I set foot in a bobsleigh," Chris recalls. The four-man event was Saturday and Sunday. He would train Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; Friday was rest-day. This meant that for an event for which one must ideally train for three years, Chris was getting three days' training and the team all of three months. "This was crazy! As the brakeman, you stand at the top of a hill overlooking a precipice; push off the bobsled, then run as fast you can, jump in; the sled gets up to a speed of 80 miles per hour," Chris exclaims, reliving that moment which seemed now like sheer madness.
    The team, now joined by Coswell Allen and Freddy Powell, was coached by Howard Siler. It was Allen who got injured as they practised on the artificial push track. Fitch had moved mountains to get Chris accredited to the team. In the two-man event, they placed 35th out of 50 sleds. Then it was time for the four-man event. On day two, with the incredible speed of Christ Stokes, their sled achieved the seventh fastest push time and fourth out of 30-odd countries, up there with the biggest guns in bobsledding - two sleds from Russia, two from Germany and two from Switzerland. It was sweet revenge on those, including the American journalists, who had ridiculed them. Then disaster struck!

    A sensational crash

    On the same run, the sled careened out of control and ended up in a sensational crash witnessed by 100 million viewers at Calgary and on television worldwide. Dudley broke his collarbone and Chris dislocated his. It was sheer embarrassment. The naysayers reminded them: "We had told you so. and one unkind person suggested we go back home to sit under our coconut tree in Jamaica," Chris recounts. The crash formed the spectacular climax to the movie Cool Runnings which the team's overall success was to inspire.
    In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, the two brothers were not sure which hurt more, their bodies or their pride. In his book, Chris would write later that they had spent many difficult moments together but none "quite as dark as those 20 minutes on the ride to the hospital". The circumstances justified quitting. "Yet, in the face of evidence to the contrary, we decided that we could do it, and we would not quit," he relates. "We had learnt a vital lesson, that many huge successes were actually born out of huge failures. I know now that you cannot truly succeed until you have truly failed."
    For his part, Dudley says that moment has defined him since as a person. "It was the single most important moment of my life. I was almost crippled before an estimated 100 million people watching on TV; I had become a laughing stock, but I decided that we were down but not out. We would get up and fight another day."
    But the days immediately following were dark ones for Chris. He had missed much and had to drop out of his MBA class. He lost his academic scholarship, and his dad was flabbergasted, trying to come to grips with the fact that his son had sacrificed an MBA to go push a cart!

    O cruel injury!

    Out of school, Chris decided to train hard to make the Jamaican Olympic team. In the pre-Fontaine Classic in Oregon, he won the 100m sprint and confidently set his eyes on the Jamaica national trials. He breezed through the heats and made it to the semi-final when tragedy again struck. An old hamstring injury resurfaced with a vengeance and he could only manage fifth. He was out. A wave of depression washed over him. He felt let down. And he would have to face the sad but inevitable truth. He would never make it to the top on the running track. But he made an important decision: he would stick to bobsledding. That did not put the pressure on the hamstring and he could avoid the injury problems which had ended his plans for track glory.

    A dream called Helitours

    That year, Dudley left the army to go into business with his brother and some army buddies and friends including Maloney, Richard Lewis (who died in a 1992 accident) and Francis Millwood. The plan was to operate a tour of Jamaica by helicopter. They called the business Helitours. A string of unfavourable developments, including Hurricane Gilbert, the Gulf War, an accident which damaged the first two helicopters in the container en route to Jamaica, the financial meltdown which spawned FINSAC and later the 9/11 disaster, forced him to mothball the business, to await a more favourable climate. His wife had preceded him into business as a customs broker and both together operate Aeromar Logistics, a third party import/export logistics company with the trade name Amlog.
    But whatever happened, Dudley too decided that he would remain in bobsledding and they would go back to the Winter Olympics in 1992. Chris won another scholarship and went back to Washington State in January 1989 to complete his MBA in finance. He again graduated top of the class and went to work as an assistant manager for the university's group of companies, getting rapid promotion to business manager within two years. At the same time, he lectured in finance and corporate strategy at the university.
    The 1992 Winter Olympics in La Plagne, France ended in obscurity for the Jamaican bobsled team which placed 24th out of 30-odd. But the brothers decided to regroup, and by 1993 they were pretty much ready for the 1994 Olympics. This time they acquired the services of Winston Watt and Wayne Thomas who proved to be two of the best pushers in the world. Chris' employers refused to give him time off to train so he resigned his job. Bobsledding was now in the blood.

    Beating the mighty US

    It was another spectacular time for the team in Lillehammer. Despite an overweight sled that caused the two-man team to be disqualified, they finished 14th overall but more importantly, beat the mighty US. The actual placing in terms of country was number eight. It was a world shocker and Hollywood became interested, very interested. Out of that came the feature length movie Cool Runnings which was partially shot on location at Flint River, Hanover. Unfortunately, while the film heightened their international profile, returns from the movie were not as spectacular, and Dudley would be moved to comment that "the movie business is a racket".

    Michelle dies

    In 1993, Chris sifted through a raft of business offers and decided he would accept one from Victoria Mutual Building Society. Friends laughed at his decision, asking why would he want to join such an old institution. They were going into the newer financial outfits. He went ahead anyway. Within five years, all the new financial entities had gone belly up and they saw the wisdom of his choice. He started as assistant vice-president and last year was promoted to senior VP business development, the youngest person in the company's history to fill that position.
    In 1995, he married Michelle Sterling, the Montego Bay High School head girl he had met at the Youth For Christ meeting and who was now teaching at St Andrew High School. They had two daughters, Natalia, and Jalissa from his wife's previous marriage. The couple's son, Gabriel was still-born in 1998. Michelle battled Lupus which sapped her of her energy, finally succumbing to it in 2003. Chris says he is still trying to deal with her loss, learning to be mother and father to their two daughters and balancing his work at the 126-year-old VMBS which he describes as a real Jamaican gem. He is grateful to his mentor, Ronnie Graham, now retired.
    The two brothers retain their interest in bobsled, working to build the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation, both having served as president at different times. A bobsleigh store was recently opened at the Sangster Airport in MoBay, with more to come. And the dream lives on that one day Jamaicans will again set the icy bobsled tracks on fire with their audacity. It happened almost by accident the first time. This time, Dudley and Chris will be there to stoke the fire themselves.
    Next week: Lloyd B Smith - The man they call 'Governor' of Montego Bay

    Send comments on this interview to [email protected]
    What nonsense! How can you have a revolution without shooting people ? Lenin 26th October 1917...
    If Christians go to heaven, I do not want to go to Heaven: Hatuey. 2/02/1512

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    NJ
    Posts
    4,099

    Re: Mi claim tuh fame

    An informative piece....thanks Walla Walla
    Common sense ain't common sense. Everybody ain't got it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Canada's Capital
    Posts
    23,161

    Re: Mi claim tuh fame

    (((Walhalla))) thanks for sharing... excellent piece!

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