Meet Wellingborough's history-making Winter Olympian who is skiing for Jamaica

Benjamin Alexander will represent Jamaica in the giant slalom

By Alison Bagley
Monday, 17th January 2022, 9:44 am
Updated Monday, 17th January 2022, 10:19 am

A Wellingborough-born former DJ is set to represent Jamaica at the Beijing Winter Olympics after being selected to compete in the giant slalom event.

Benjamin Alexander, 38, only started mountain skiing six years ago but the ski bug snowballed on a visit to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

He had noticed that his father's home nation of Jamaica had only three athletes at the games - and no skiers - and his ambition to become an Olympian was sparked.

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Benjamin Alexander photo by Stephen Shelesky

Now the former Wellingborough School pupil has been named as the sole skier in the Jamaican Winter Olympics squad and has become Jamaica’s first alpine skier.

He said: "By qualifying I've already won my gold medal. We started celebrating as soon as the result was announced - on Friday I had the hangover from hell!

"Alpine skiing is the blue riband event, there will be about 120 competitors and you have to be one of the fastest 30 people to have a second run and contend for a medal - I am absolutely not going to be in the top 30. I'm an underdog."

He has been training intensively in the USA for the qualification event, clocking up more than 1,200 miles and more than 1.7 million vertical feet. He has skied on 450 days in the last two years, as many as he could manage during the lockdowns.

Benjamin Alexander - photo Stephen Shelesky

Using his dad Keith's Jamaican heritage, Benjamin has dual Jamaican and UK citizenship.

Mentored by Dudley Stokes, one of the Jamaican bobsledders of Cool Runnings' fame, he is well aware of the comparison.

He said: "An 'exotic' nation athlete can't hope to compete against the likes of Switzerland and Austria and people who have been skiing all their lives. I started skiing when I was 32. Skiing is an incredibly white sport so I was always the black guy on the slopes.

"When you are mixed race and when you are in a room of black people you are the white guy, when you are in a room of white people you are the black guy. I wanted to represent the black side.

Photo by Noah Wallace

"I'm a fan of Cool Runnings - I really really like the film. They inspired bobsled teams. I hope that my story will inspire others in Jamaica to participate in winter sports. I shan't be coming back to the Games."

Mr Alexander could be in line to be the official flag bearer as the only other Jamaican competitors are the famous bobsled team.

His path to Olympic glory started at All Saints Primary School. A gifted child, Mr Alexander's academic abilities were recognised and a Government initiative enabled him to receive a scholarship to Wellingborough School.

While some of the people he grew up with were getting into trouble with the police, he was determined to keep on the right side of the law.

Benjamin's logo

He said: "I never got carried away into the world of selling drugs or stealing cars or having multiple children. Going to Wellingborough School separated me from that."

After sitting his GCSEs he went to Northampton College to study for his A-Levels.

He gained a place at the prestigious Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine to study physics but changed courses to study electrical engineering at University College London.

After graduating he took a job in finance in Hong Kong, pursuing his love of garage music and DJing. Mr Alexander's nights behind the decks took over from the day job, leading him to travelling the world and landing a six-year residency in clubs on party island Ibiza.

It was in 2015 on a trip to Canada that Mr Alexander’s interest in skiing began after being invited to DJ at a winter sports resort. After a few skiing lessons he returned to the slopes for another go two years later.

He picked up advice from pro skiers as he went along. He's not had a coach and has taught himself how to take on the fearsome giant slalom - a race down an icy mountain with gates that have be negotiated at speeds of up to 25mph.

Photo by Stephen Shelesky

The International Olympic Committee, in an effort to open up competition to lower-profile winter sports nations, have created the possibility where one place per nation can be gained via B-league competitions.

Mr Alexander has had to fulfil the criteria set out - finishing within a certain number of seconds of the winners of five International Ski Federation races.

His mathematical background has helped him analyse stats to improve his chances of reaching the qualification by picking specific races in which to compete.

He has now travelled to 67 countries in the pursuit of his goal, spending life on the road from his base in Austria. At the inaugural Cape Verde National Ski Championships, held in Liechtenstein last week, his dream became a reality.

Both recently retired from driving jobs, Mr Alexander's mum Ann (who drove buses for pupils with additional needs) and dad Keith (a bus driver), as well as brother Kelvin, will be seeing him before he flies out to China as he needs to pick up his official Olympic kit.

He added: "They are very proud of me and have always supported everything I have done.

"I've put two years of my life into this and £100,000. There were many times when I felt it slipping away. The beautiful thing is a lot of nay-sayers have been proven wrong."

The culmination of all his hard work will be on Sunday, February 13 when the men's giant slalom competition gets under way.