Thanks to the kindness of the Internet, a two-man Jamaican bobsled team is going to the Sochi Olympics.
Through crowdfunding sites Crowdtilt, Indiegogo, online currency site Dogecoin, and Reddit, the bobsledders had raised a total of more than $160,000 as of Tuesday morning, the same day the hashtag #Coolrunnings2 was trending on Twitter. The team needed $80,000 to cover supplies, equipment and travel expenses.
Because of the 1993 film "Cool Runnings," many already know that this team has a very unusual story. The beloved underdogs overcame many struggles to appear in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, including borrowing sleds from other countries to compete and having little experience with bobsled tracks before the games. They showed exceptional spirit, however, and even though they crashed on one of their four runs, they were remembered fondly.
The team returned to the Winter Olympics in 1992 and 1994, but failed to qualify for the 2006 and 2010 Games, so they've been waiting some time to compete. Now, they have a chance to do it again.
The website of Dogecoin, a peer-to-peer online currency, announced Monday that its community had donated $30,000 to the bobsled team after a Dogecoin community on Reddit set up a donation page and promoted it.
“We have transferred to 35 BTC [approx. $30,000 USD] that will be passed on to the Jamaican bobsled team,” says an update on the site.
This year's team is made up of only two men: driver Winston Watts and brakesman Marvin Dixon. To actually compete in the 2014 Olympics, the team needed funds to cover equipment and travel costs -- and they were way short of their $80,000 goal as recently as Monday afternoon.
Also on Monday, the Jamaica Olympic Association congratulated the bobsled team in a statement on its website, saying it had given “significant financial assistance” to the team so that it could qualify for the Games.
A number of Internet users helped Watts and Dixon get the rest of the way there.
The person that stepped in to help the most, perhaps, was a longtime fan of the team's story, thanks to the film. Lincoln Wheeler created a funding campaign for the team on Crowdtilt.
Crowdtilt Community Director Mary Yap told HLN Monday that the site was working with Wheeler to ensure that, if the goal were met, the team would receive the funds. Since Wheeler is a third party, he agreed to allow the donations to go straight to Crowdtilt. Team Jamaica officially endorsed the Crowdtilt fundraiser Sunday.
"That's why we're looking for funding so that we can fulfill the dream," Watts told CNN in an interview Monday. "We're Jamaican, and we believe. It's gonna happen."
Watt's prior coach, Randy Jones, told HLN that while this would be the team's most expensive effort so far, he believes the two-man team has what it takes to make it to Sochi.
"Everything has always been out of pocket for them, which is how it is in the bobsled world, once you get started," Jones told HLN. "But Watt believes in using what he has. He's got the drive and desire to get it done."