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Kerr skis into Olympic picture
TRUCKEE, California (AP):
Some might say he's Usain Bolt on skis. Not surprisingly, though, when Errol Kerr tells people he's a member of the Jamaican Winter Olympic team, most pull out the bobsled one-liners.
"When people hear of a Jamaican skier, they expect dreads hanging out the back of my helmet and a smoke stream following me down the mountain," Kerr said.
This is no joke, though.
Less than two years since Bolt brought world records and world renown to the island nation with his sprinting, Jamaica's latest winter star is hoping to put his country on the map in the new Olympic sport of skicross.
"It's more than just a country," Kerr said. "It's in my blood, in my DNA."
The official list of athletes who will be competing in skicross will be announced by the International Ski Federation in January. Kerr would qualify for the Vancouver Game according to the federation's current rankings.
Born to an American mother and a Jamaican father, Kerr grew up a dual citizen between Lake Tahoe in California, where he moved with his mother as a child, from Westmoreland, Jamaica's westernmost parish.
Inspired by cool runnings
He has felt most at home on the slopes since he was a kid watching a ski race on TV. He rolls with the jokes, most of which inevitably draw comparisons to the Jamaica bobsled team, a fan favourite in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary that inspired the comedy movie Cool Runnings.
In fact, one of Kerr's sponsors is a beverage company called Cool Runnings.
"There's no running away from it," Kerr said of the bobsled team. "I embrace it. They laid the groundwork."
But while the bobsled team was initially a novelty, Kerr enters the Vancouver Olympics - his first - as a serious contender.
The hybrid style of skicross draws on Kerr's extensive background in Alpine skiing. It also makes good use of the rougher edge he picked up in motocross and BMX, and the 200-plus pounds (90-plus kilograms) he has to throw around, said American Jonny Moseley, an Olympic gold medallist who will be a TV commentator for the freestyle events - moguls, aerials and skicross - in Vancouver.
"Errol's got a good shot at the Olympics," Moseley said. "He's cut out for the sport."
His mother, Catherine Kerr, once a ski racer herself, stands behind the practice gate, counting down: "Racers ready ... attention ..." She lets the gate fly. Errol Kerr springs out, strides. He plants his poles once and crouches for the first tabletop jump, staying tight and close to the ground. Another stride, another jump. Then he circles back and goes through it all again ... and again ... and again, shaving off the precious fractions of a second that could land him ahead of the pack in Vancouver.
Errol Kerr's late father never strapped on a pair of skis, Errol's mother said. It would have moved him to see how far his son has come and to know that he is competing for the island, she said. Kerr said part of his dream was always to race for his father's country - under the black, green and yellow flag of Jamaica.
"To be able to see Errol grab a hold of that and say let's take it a step further, put Jamaica on the map of skiing, it's beautiful," she said. "He would just be so proud."