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Howard Siler, first Jamaica Bobsled coach, passes away

Jul 14, 2014, 2:29 PM EST

Howard Siler, the coach of the first Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team, died at age 69 last Tuesday in Clermont, Fla., according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

Siler competed as a U.S. bobsledder at the 1972 and 1980 Olympics with a top finish of fifth.

He would be the inspiration for John Candy‘s role in the Disney movie “Cool Runnings” about the Jamaican Bobsled Team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Siler remembered the film in an interview with the Calgary Sun last year, the 25-year anniversary of those Winter Games.

“It was a good movie, and there were a couple of things that were true, and a lot that wasn’t,” he told the newspaper. “First of all, I’d never won two gold medals, and second, I wasn’t an alcoholic in Jamaica.

“There was a part in the movie where we get off the plane and go out the front door, and they go right back into the terminal to put more clothes on. Well that was the true part of the movie — the chinook wasn’t there that day, and it was cold.”

Siler also told the story of the first time the Jamaican bobsledders stepped on a rink in Lake Placid, N.Y.

“I was there the very first time they walked on ice — we put them on a hockey rink without bobsled shoes, so they were slipping and sliding and having a good time,” he said.

“Then we put some bobsled shoes on, and showed them the difference.”

Jamaica Bobsled returned to the spotlight last winter for the first time since 2002, barely qualifying for the Sochi Olympics and taking 29th out of 29 finishers in the two-man event.

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