I’ll try my best to resist all references to ‘Cool Runnings’ (…except that one) in this quick blurb about Errol Kerr, member of the Jamaican Ski team for the 2010 Winter Olympics. If you haven’t heard about this before, you might wonder if you read correctly. Yes, Jamaica has an Olympic S-K-I, SKI team. Jamaica’s participation in the Winter Olympics is actually the cresting of a wave that started rolling back when Jamaica entered a bobsled team in the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Canada (which the movie I shall not reference was based on). That same year, the Jamaica Ski Federation was founded by Richard Salm, an English skier who retired to Jamaica. The first and last time Jamaica was represented at an international ski event was at the World Championships in Denver, 1999, but funding kept them from the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. It’s looking like all systems are a go this time around for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Enough background facts for now…(click here, here or here for more info)…on to the little Q&A I had with Errol the other day.
How did your parents meet?
My mom lived and worked in Stamford, California for a while, went on vacation to Jamaica to get away from white collar society for a bit. While hitch-hiking through Jamaica, my Dad picked her up and she never left. They got married, and lived there for 10 years. They moved up to Brooklyn when my mom got pregnant with me, she wanted me to grow up in America. They picked Brooklyn because of the West Indian population, but my dad didn’t really like it and eventually moved back to Jamaica.
How Jamaican are you?
I’m not very Jamaican on the outside, but I am very connected to the island. I have a brother there, who my mother raised while she lived in Jamaica and he still calls her Mom. I see the love my mother has for the land, and that connection is an experience we share whenever we visit together.
Would it be correct to say that you claim two cultural identities? What has the experience of reconciling them been like for you?
Yes, I would say I definitely do, but I wouldn’t say that it has ever been a hindrance. Yet I feel that I don’t fully connect with either of the two.
In a previous interview, you said that it was your Dad who had given you the drive to represent Jamaica. Can you expand on that?
My dad passed away when I was 14, but even after he moved back to Jamaica, I saw him regularly, every year. I felt that representing Jamaica was something special I could do for him.
What has the response from Jamaica been?
The people of Jamaica have generally been very supportive. The buzz really just got started about a year ago.
Skiing isn’t exactly indigenous to the island – do you feel that has made it difficult to connect with Jamaicans?
On the surface, it might be a hindrance, but if you go beyond that, there’s a lot more in common: skiing is just as exotic to the average Jamaican as the beaches and coconut trees are to the average American!