Winter Olympics: Benjamin Alexander Is First Olympic Alpine Skier in Jamaica's History

Benjamin Alexander, 38, is only the 15th athlete to represent Jamaica in the Winter Olympics

Benjamin Alexander

When asked what his goal is for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, alpine skier Benjamin Alexander has a one-word answer: survival.

The British-born 38-year-old will be competing in the men's giant slalom this weekend as a part of Jamaica's Olympic team, making him the first alpine skier to ever represent the country at a Winter Games.

Not only that, Alexander — whose mother is British and his father Jamaican — is only the 15th athlete to compete for Jamaica in Olympic history, following in the snow-covered footsteps of the famed Cool Runnings bobsled team of the 1988 Winter Olympics, and those few who came after.

What makes Alexander's story even more unique is that he skied for the first time fairly recently: in 2015. He started training with dreams of making it to the Olympics a few years later after attending the 2018 Games in South Korea.

"I went to the Olympics in PyeongChang as a spectator and noticed that there were only three athletes in representation for Jamaica, a country that's a complete powerhouse in the Summer Games," Alexander, a former DJ, tells PEOPLE. "So there was a bit of the kernel of an idea [of competing in the Olympics] forming there."

But at the time, Alexander had only about two weeks of skiing experience, so he started booking DJing gigs near areas with snow so he could pack in extra practice.

Benjamin Alexander

"I was really hooked," he recalls.

Then at the start of 2019, he says he dedicated an entire month to really learning skiing, to prove whether he had the potential to be an Olympian. "Honestly, when I began that month, I thought the most likely outcome was either death or a serious injury. I was such a Kamikaze skier," Alexander says of the time. "I loved to go fast and just really didn't have that much control."

A few days into his training, Alexander met Gordon Gray, a former top-tier international ski racer, who told him that — while he needed more practice — his speed and fearlessness were impressive.

"I rode motorbikes from the age of 15, really, really loved to go fast with anything that I was involved in," Alexander says. "And quite often I would be taking huge risks that other people thought were kind of reckless. Whereas from my point of view, they were calculated risks. And it has kind of been like that with a lot of things in my life."

By the end of 2019, he had moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and was dedicating each day to skiing. Then, in January, he officially qualified for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"I would never have embarked on this mission had I not thought that was possible," Alexander says. "There were many moments over the last year in particular, where I thought that the dream was slipping away from me"

RELATED VIDEO: Skier Nina O'Brien Undergoes Surgery After Crash at Beijing Olympics: 'I'm a Little Heartbroken'

Alexander knows the competition will be fierce, but he hopes his showing will apply the groundwork for the future generation of Jamaican Olympians who have dreams of conquering the slopes. They may one day put up a fight against the countries that traditionally win gold at the Games, he says.

"I mean skiing's interesting, right? It's like the Winter Olympics are really kind of this get-together where 10 countries do really well and sweep up all the medals and no one else has a chance to do anything," Alexander explains. "And I'm really keen. I mean, I never thought that this would be the thing coming into this. I just thought this would be one guy's crazy plan to try to qualify for the Olympics."

"But with what happened in 2020 with George Floyd and with all the attention that his story has received, it's turned into something else," he adds. "And now it's like, well let's help these 200 other countries to see if they can get a piece of the pie at the Winter Games."

To learn more about Team USA, visit Watch the Winter Olympics, now, and the Paralympics, beginning March 4, on NBC.

Related Articles