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Jamaican bobsled coach quits Olympic team, may take sled

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Tom Schad

 |  USA TODAY

The driver coach of Jamaica’s bobsled team has abruptly left the team just days before it is scheduled to begin Olympic competition in Pyeongchang.

And, according to BBC, she could take the team’s sled with her.

The Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation said in a statement Wednesday that Sandra Kiriasis, a 43-year-old German who won a gold medal as a competitor in the 2006 Games, has “elected not to continue her position.” Kiriasis told BBC that her departure was triggered by the federation’s attempt to change her role to “track performance analyst,” which would limit her interaction with the team’s athletes.

To add to the intrigue, Kiriasis also told the British news organization that she is legally responsible for the team’s sled and wants payment for it. The federation disputed that she owns the sled and denies that the team will have to withdraw from the Olympics as a result of her departure, according to BBC.

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“We are deeply disappointed in her decision to leave the program,” the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation said in the statement. “We thank her for her invaluable contribution to JBSF and contributing to the success of Jamaica’s first female bobsled Olympic appearance.

“Ms. Kiriasis’ departure will not impact JBSF or its athletes’ performance in the (Olympic Winter Games).”

The federation’s president, meanwhile, had more inflammatory thoughts.

In an interview with Reuters, Christian Stokes lambasted Kiriasis and said, “frankly, things have only improved with her departure.”

“The lady was a hugely destructive force on the team,” Stokes told the news agency. “Now that she is off the team, synergy is much better, tension is down and athletes are now able to focus in a much healthier environment.

“If you come on the team, you have to be a team player. There are no gods and goddesses here.”

Kiriasis denied that she and Jamaica’s team members were on rocky ground.

“The athletes have told me they don’t understand why this has happened, as they have no problem with me and we have a good relationship,” she told BBC.

Jamaica is slated to compete in the two-woman portion of the Olympic bobsled competition, which begins Tuesday.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

 

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