Winter Olympics: Cool Runnings II: The Bermudan luger

Chris Moore in Nagano meets the man following the tracks of the Reggae Boyz
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IN the wake of the Jamaican bobsleigh team a British- educated luger from Bermuda has taken on the mantle of unlikely centre of attention here.

But this time, we are not talking about a no-hoper in the Eddie Edwards mould. Patrick Singleton has already been nominated by IBM, one of the main sponsors, as one of the "most remarkable stories" of the Games, and already has a luge medal to his name. The 23 year-old former Rannoch public schoolboy earned the right to represent the island of his birth after finishing third in the Junior World Cup event at La Plagne.

It was during his schooling in Scotland that Singleton cut his teeth in winter sports. "Climbing ice and running 20 miles up mountains and across Rannoch moor proved good training for a future Olympian," said his proud mother Sallie, a former member of the Royal Ballet, whose Londonderry- born husband, Derek, is a tennis professional in Bermuda.

Patrick's unlikely introduction into luging was inspired by the success of the Jamaican bobbers in Calgary in 1988. Two years ago an Austrian luge coach ran an officially sponsored summer camp in Bermuda at which roller-blade wheels were clamped on to the sleds. "They didn't work too well because they wobbled about a lot and would veer to the left or right," Singleton said. "But it grabbed the imagination of the local kids, including myself.

"We thought that if the Jamaicans could make a success of bobsleighing, why couldn't Bermuda compete in the luge."Once on the ice he quickly showed a genuine aptitude for the sport.

To finance his Olympic crusade, and a $1500 flight to Tokyo, he spent his holidays from university in North Carolina painting roofs in Bermuda. "With no controlled water supply most people have to catch their own drinking water off the roof so it's important they're kept clean," he said.

It also helped fund a crucial trip to Europe where he received expect tuition from the Austrian coach Gunther Lemmerer. With money running out, the Bosnians gave him a lift to Germany so he could compete in his first World Cup race at Winterberg before his bronze-medal success at La Plagne.

"Since then he's become a sporting personality in Bermuda," his mother said. "We've been receiving good-luck messages from around the world, including from the Scottish curlers."

Singleton is also being portrayed as a hero for something that happened while he was working to raise more funds as a park ranger at Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda, when he saved thelife of an American who had broken his leg and fallen into the water.

There was another helpful spin-off, as well, for when the man's wife discovered that Patrick was coming to the Olympics she launched a campaign to raise funds for him.

Two weeks ago his Olympic dream was almost wrecked by a spectacular crash on the aptly named Spiral track here. His new Austrian sled was damaged beyond repair, and there was no chance of getting a replacement made in time. But then Singleton discovered that a Taiwan luger had been forced to withdraw from the Games through injury, and after a series of desperate phone calls the Taiwanese sent their sled back to Nagano by special courier. "I'm proud to be representing Bermuda and my goal here is just to compete," added Patrick.