Lot 3111: Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics: Dudley Stokes's Qualifier-Worn Jamaican Bobsled Helmet
17th January 2019
Incredible yellow Bell helmet worn by Jamaican bobsleigh pilot Dudley Stokes during the team's final qualifier in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Measuring approximately 7.5 x 10.5 x 12, the helmet features a mesh wire breath opening and vertical ear vents, with black leather and navy blue interior padding and chinstrap, with part numbers on buckle hardware, "Bell/USA, 06/87." The entirety of the helmet bears scuffs and abrasions, with the most significant damage absorbed on the left ear and scalp sections, reflecting the sled's prolonged and violent skid down Canada Olympic Park's bobsleigh track. included are a pair of orange-and-pink Smith ski goggles worn by Stokes during an earlier heat at the Calgary Games, with a small "Jamaica Bobsleigh Team, Calgary 1988" pin attached to head strap; deterioration to black face padding. Also includes copies of articles chronicling the origin and emergence of Jamaican bobsledding. Accompanied by a letter of provenance from Alan Howat, the 1988 Jamaican team captain and manager, in part: "I...first met George Fitch and the Jamaican Bobsleigh team in late 1988 at a trade show where the team were special guests; when I found out they had not been paid by vendors for t-shirt sales during the Olympics I offered to look after their affairs in Calgary and provide housing and logistical support to the athletes. At that point I became a non-sledding member of the team, serving as team captain at race meetings in Calgary and looking after all their business affairs. In the spring of 1989, we received new BMW racing helmets and I stored the old helmets from the Olympics and added the pilot's (Dudley Stokes's) helmet & goggles as a memento in my memorabilia collection. This was the helmet Dudley Stokes wore during the Olympics and bares the scratch marks from the famous crash when he could not get his head and helmet back in the sled. Once the guys started using the new helmets, the old ones were never used again." Much of the immense popularity of the 1988 Winter Games can be attributed to the unlikely journey of the Jamaican bobsleigh team, a five-man crew comprised of three Jamaican defense force soldiers, a student, and a reggae singer, all of whom had never before experienced snow. Trained by two-time US Olympian Howard Siler, the group used a makeshift, rock-weighted bobsled to practice their push-starts under the tropical sun of Kingston. After months of preparation, the team competed at Innsbruck's World Cup and finished a surprising 35th out of 41 teams; their success earned them the respect of the International Bobsled Federation, and an invite to Calgary where they quickly became the talk of the Olympic town. Although a crash during a qualifier ended the Jamaican team's bid for a medal, their incredible underdog story earned worldwide attention, and was later adapted by Walt Disney in the hit 1993 film Cool Runnings. A unique token from the team that took the Calgary Olympics by storm.
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