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Irving “Irv” Blitzer was an American bobsled two time Gold Medalist at the 1968 Winter Olympics who finished first in two events again during the 1972 Winter Olympics but was disqualified from the latter for cheating and retired in disgrace to Jamaica, where he leads an impoverished life as a bookie. Irving is approached by two Jamaican athletes: top 100m runner Derice Bannock, who failed to qualify for the 1988 Summer Olympics when another opponent tripped him at the trials, and Sanka Coffie, a champion push cart racer. The athletes wish to use Irving’s previous experience as a Coach in order to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics as bobsledders. Irving had been good friends with Derice’s father, Ben, a former sprinter whom Irving had tried to recruit for the bobsled team years ago, who is presumed to be deceased. Yul Brenner, another runner who was tripped at the qualifier, joins the team as does as Junior Bevil, the runner who tripped Yul and Derice. Eventually Irving is convinced to coach the team.
The four try to find various ways to earn money to get in the Olympics; singing on the street, arm wrestling, and holding a kissing booth, but all fail. Junior, however, sells his car, which gets the team the money that they need. In Calgary, Irving manages to acquire an old practice sled, as the Jamaicans have never been in an actual bobsled. The Jamaicans are looked down upon by other countries, in particular the East German team whose arrogant leader, Josef, tells them to go home, resulting in a bar fight. The team resolves to view the contest more seriously, continuing to train and improve their technique. They qualify for the finals, but are briefly disqualified. At the primary judge meeting, Irving immediately confronts his former coach from the ’72 Olympic Winter Games Kurt Hemphill, now a primary judge of the ’88 Olympic Winter Games, for disqualifying the Jamaicans for his mistake. He confesses that he made the biggest mistake in his life by cheating by hiding weights underneath the sled to make it run faster. Irving’s 1972 Gold Medals were revoked and he embarrassed his country with the scandal. He says that if Hemphill wants revenge, just punish him, not his team. He begs Hemphill to let the Jamaicans qualify and represent their country in the Olympics. Later, the judges overturn their decision and the Jamaicans are back in. The Jamaicans’ first day on the track results in more embarrassment and a last place finish.
Sanka convinces Derice to stop copying qualities of the Swiss team. Once the team develops their own style, the second day proves ; the Jamaican team finishes with a fast time which puts them in eighth position. Later, Irving tells Derice the truth about his past and convinces him to think of himself as a champion even if he doesn’t win the gold, saying, “A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” For the first half of the final day’s race it looks as though they will break the world bobsled speed record, until tragedy strikes: their sled, due to one of the blades falling off, flips on its side coming out of a turn towards the end of their run, leaving them meters short of the finish line. However, the team lifts the sled over their shoulders and walks across the finish line to rousing applause from spectators, including Josef, Hempill, and Junior’s father. The team, at the end, feels accomplished enough to return in four years to the next winter Olympics. A brief epilogue states the team returned to Jamaica as heroes and upon their return to the Winter Olympics four years later, they were treated as equals.