Trinidad and Tobago bobsleigh team chases historic four-man spot at 2026 Winter Games

L-R: Pilot Axel Browne, De Aundre John, Xaverri Williams, Nicholas King, Wayne Garrett and coach Lee Johnston.  - Steffensphoto
L-R: Pilot Axel Browne, De Aundre John, Xaverri Williams, Nicholas King, Wayne Garrett and coach Lee Johnston. - Steffensphoto

With their eyes set on the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Italy, Trinidad and Tobago’s bobsleigh team will use the next 18 months to develop a well-oiled four-man team ahead of the Olympic qualifiers.

Steered by pilot Axel Brown, the Soca Sliders also comprises of Shakeel John, Xaverri Williams and Du Aundre John, and is expected to feature more athletes, courtesy of a recent recruitment drive for potential bobsledders.

For the first time in the nation’s short Winter Olympic history, TT will be chasing a spot in the four-man event. Past performances in 1994 (Lillehammer, Norway), 1998 (Nangano, Japan), 2002 (Utah, USA) and 2022 (Beijing, China) saw TT compete in the two-man bobsleigh.

The 2026 Olympic qualifiers slide off from November 2025 to January 2026. Until then, Brown believes TT has a lot of work to do. He is, however, confident they can get it done. This year, he said, is all about development and continuity.

“It’s a growing year so we’re not so much looking at results, we’re looking at the future and what we can do now to help the next couple of years. Yes, most of our 2023 results were good but we’re really looking at growing the team, getting better and laying the groundwork for the other teams,” he added.

TT’s first assignment for 2024 is the BMW International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cup in Switzerland on Saturday; a two-man event. Five days later, the two-man team compete at the Europe Cup, at the same venue, then contest the four-man, the next day.

In early February, they head off to Innsbruck, Austria, for another round of Europe Cup action.

Last year, TT’s team captured their first-ever bobsleigh medal – bronze in the four-man event at the North American Cup in Utah, in November. They also had their best showing (28th) at the Winter Olympics in February.

Additionally, a month ago, the four-man team of Brown, Williams, John and Nicholas King produced a credible tenth-place finish at the Europe Cup in Norway.

Through December last, Du Aundre and Williams spent the holidays with Brown to put in some work on the sled. This allowed Brown “to show them what a bobsledder does in the gym and where they need to be”.

While he is grateful that TT’s bobsledders more or less come from a track and field background, Brown said they still need to improve on their push power at the start of the race.

“If they train day-in, day-out they can get a lot stronger and a lot closer to the proverbial perfect bobsledder. Because that’s where they’re lacking right now, they’ve never truly hit the gym really hard in order to gain strength.

“We’re trying to reframe their priorities to show them what it means to be and train like a bobsledder. We had some really good opportunities over the past three weeks to train alongside them. Normally, on the ice, the driver has to operate a little bit separately because of the different responsibilities, so to train alongside them for the last three weeks has been really beneficial.”

Transitioning from a two-man team to four, Brown said, is a progressive move and will broaden the pool of potential athletes for TT. Additionally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has mandated nations chasing Winter Olympic qualification, to field a four-man for the qualifiers.

However, the costs to run and manage such a team will double.

Brown confirmed they got some assistance from the Ministry of Sport and Community Development for the 2023 campaign and was grateful.

“A four-man team doubles our financial responsibilities going into Milan, Italy. It doubles our budget for this year and the next two years going into the Olympics. With us also trying to bring in two more pilots, all of a sudden the financial responsibility is vast, and it’s only so much I can do.

“I’m trying to build something that’s going to outlast me so that’s where help from the Ministry of Sport (and Community Development) and the solidarity funding from the IOC would be really impactful, should we get it.”

Last year’s funding from the ministry played an important role and assisting the team despite them having to cut a week sliding off the back end of the season just to meet the budget because of rising costs.

“We cannot afford, figuratively, to be losing time on ice because that’s where we’re behind. We can train our butts off in the off-season but if we can’t the time on ice because we can’t afford it, then there’s a ceiling placed over us, based purely on money.”

He added that TT’s performances at any event give the team significant mileage via international media.

“The bigger we get, more popularity, results and exposure we get, the better. That top-ten finish was seen everywhere. We’re the only sled that gets talked about by any other nation because of how unique we are (as a Caribbean team).

“The German media reports on Germany and TT, it’s the same with other major nations. They report on their team, then TT. We’re a story and (we’re) not supposed to be there. We have a lot to give; exposure, publicity and brand association.

“It’s just a case of getting in the room with the right people and right company, who also want to benefit from that exposure or just want to help the team and expand the country’s legacy.”

Brown hinted at his retirement in 2026 but wants to ensure that if he does, TT has continuity in the sport. He wants the current team to “learn” from him, just as he learnt from his teachers, about running an effective team.

“When I’m making decisions, I’m showing and explaining to them why. So they have the mental tools, preparation and knowledge to go into the sport afterward. I’m also battling to create funds that aren’t tied to me.

“So we’re grateful for the Ministry of Sport funding, but if we can grow that to sustain the programme, then the people that inherit it from me, and I’m not just going to disappear – I’m going to mentor them still – will walk into a federation that supports them and is able to hopefully get them to the 2030 Games.”


"Trinidad and Tobago bobsleigh team chases historic four-man spot at 2026 Winter Games"

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