Winter Olympics Props Betting: Jamaican Bobsled Odds and Picks
by Trevor Whenham - 2/11/2014
When I sit in my living room here in Calgary and look out the window and across the valley a couple of miles I see Canada Olympic Park, the home of the bobsled track used in the 1988 Winter Olympics. It was right there that the legend of the Jamaican bobsled team was born 26 years ago, and where “Cool Runnings,” an all-time great sports movie, was shot soon after.
The Jamaicans captured the imagination of this city back then, and as a young boy I felt like their biggest fan. The emergence of another upstart group of Jamaican bobsledders this year, then, has me feeling nostalgic — and cheering for them. Back then I bought a sweatshirt to be a part of their story. Times change, and this time around Bovada offers a collection of prop bets to take a financial stake in this wild ride.
When the Jamaicans showed up in Calgary, they had very little experience and cobbled together a sled from spare parts borrowed from other teams. They didn’t finish the event thanks to a crash during a run. A foundation was laid, though, and given the sprint prowess of Jamaica, it’s not a surprise that they had very good starts as well. The team competed in the next four Olympics, topping out at 14th in 1994 in Lillehammer, and setting the two-man push Olympic record in 2002 in Salt Lake City with a sled piloted by Winston Watts. The team failed to qualify for the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, and the program fell into neglect.
As an aside, one of the stars of that 2002 team was Lascelles Brown, a very strong pusher. Brown moved to Calgary after those games and became a Canadian citizen in time to compete for Canada in 2006. He won silver in the two-man in 2006, bronze in the four-man in Vancouver, and he will be competing in both events here in Sochi.
Watts, who is now 46, needed a challenge, so he was the driving force behind the rebirth of the program. They qualified, but they were $80,000 short on their budget, and their participation was in question. Thanks to the miracles of the Internet, though, they raised more than $175,000 through Crowdsourcing, and the next chapter of this crazy saga was about to be written. There was some craziness as you would expect by now when they arrived in Sochi — their equipment didn’t make it, and it was briefly thought to be lost before showing up the next day. That’s in the past, though, and Watts and his teammate Marvin Dixon are preparing to compete in the two-man event. Great story. They really don’t stand any chance of winning, though. But can they be competitive? And is there any value in the prop bets? Let’s take a look.
First, the bets. You can bet on whether they will win a medal, with the “yes” side paying a whopping +4000. Only slightly more realistically, you can bet if they will finish in the Top 10, with yes paying +800, and the “no” at -1600. The Top 25 is a more realistic goal, and both the yes and the no are at -115. Finally, you can bet whether they will crash during the event, with the yes at +300, and no at -500.
Not all the teams competing in the Olympics are regulars on the World Cup circuit, and included in that lesser group is Jamaica. They qualified by competing in the lesser North American circuit. That means that they have not faced the level of competition that they will be facing here, where they will be up against the top teams in the world. It also means that they haven’t seen this track before, and they will have had precious little practice time on the challenging track before the competition starts. For a team with less experience and inferior equipment, familiarity with the track is absolutely essential if they want to break through and pull off a shocker. Because there is only one team competing for Jamaica, they will also miss out on sharing knowledge and experience between teams like other countries can. Canada, Germany and the U.S. will each have three teams in the event, and four other countries have two sleds.
There are 30 sleds entered, including the best in the world. In order for the Jamaicans to medal they would need a miracle — like about 25 crashes from other teams. To even finish in the Top 10 would require an unlikely series of events. The Top 25 is possible but far from certain, and so there isn’t really any value in either side. As great as this story is, and as much as it reminds me of the greatest days my city has ever seen, there sadly isn’t anything attractive to bet on here.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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