Howard Siler, first Jamaican bobsled coach, dies at age 69

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Howard Siler coached the 1988 Jamican bobsled team. (Getty Images)
Howard Siler coached the 1988 Jamican bobsled team. (Getty Images)

Howard Siler, original coach of the historic Jamaican bobsled team and a two-time Olympic bobsledder for the USA himself, died last week. He was 69.

USA Bobsled and Skeleton announced the unfortunate news on their Facebook page.

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Howard B. Siler, Jr., 69, of Clermont, FL. Howard passed away on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at his home surrounded by loving family. Howard was the original coach of the Jamaican Bobsled Team, and John Candy played Siler in the Disney movie "Cool Runnings." He was a nine-time member of the USA National Bobsled Team, a three-time Olympian and a Team USA coach. We send our deepest condolences to the Clermont family during this difficult time.

An accomplished bobsledder in his own right, Siler is best known for his role as the man who helped bring the island nation of Jamaica to the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary as bobsledders. It was a team that led to the classic movie Cool Runnings, where John Candy played the role of Siler as the fictional character Irving Blitzer.

Speaking about the movie a couple years back with the Calgary Sun, Siler explained he was contacted to see if he would coach the Jamaican team (which was being backed by two American business men) not that he was aimlessly drunk and disgraced in Jamaica. He was a nine-time champion in the USA and took the chance to return to the Olympics by leading Jamaica.

So unlike Blitzer, Siler was not stripped of his medals for cheating. His highest finish was fifth in 1980 on the two-man bobsleigh (he also competed in the 1972 Games). He earned a bronze medal at the 1969 World Championships and also served as the coach of the American team in 1985.

Jamaica has carried on the bobsledding tradition, though it has struggled to remain a constant on the international scene. Jamaica made a return to the Olympics in Sochi with a two-man team that finished last but the success of the movie and its endearing legacy in the States helped the Jamaicans get the funding they needed to even make it to Sochi. None of it would have ever been possible without Siler, however.

Even though the movie clearly didn't portray Siler with any accuracy, we'll still leave you with some of John Candy's handywork as the Jamaican bobsled coach.

S/t NBC Olympic Talk

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