It's never too late to start doing that thing you've always wanted to try.
Just ask 38-year-old Benjamin Alexander. Six years ago, he put on skis for the first time. This weekend, he'll be hitting the slopes in Beijing to compete in the Winter Olympics.
Benjamin will be Jamaica's FIRST EVER alpine Olympic ski racer and only the 15th athlete ever to represent the country in a Winter Olympic sport. This Sunday, he will be entering the giant slalom race, which involves swiftly moving around gates on a downhill course.
But Benjamin's story started in 2015, when he was invited to a heli-ski lodge in British Columbia. At the time, he had never picked up a ski before in his life. But after seeing friends do the sport so skillfully, he was in awe and decided that he would return the following year knowing how to ski.
So the next year, in February of 2016, he decided to take a ski lesson in Whistler, Canada. "After the lesson, I decided to go out by myself and see what I could do," Benjamin told BuzzFeed. "That first time, I fell 27 times on the way down the hill. I think a lot of people would have given up at that point."
"But I kind of just took that as the baseline," he continued. "I thought, if I can aim for falling less than 27 times on the next hill, then I am progressing."
However, it wasn't until two years later that Benjamin considered seriously competing in the sport. "In 2018, I went to the Winter Olympics as a spectator," he said. "I noticed that there were only three athletes representing Jamaica. I found that very strange since the country is a powerhouse full of athletes in the summer game."
"So coming into 2019, I just had a plan to say, 'Let's see if this crazy idea of going to the Olympics is even possible. Let's just go and ski for a little while and see what happens,'" he said. "So I moved to Revelstoke in British Columbia, Canada. And the plan was to ski for one month. And in all honesty, I went into that month thinking the most likely outcome from this month is death or serious injury."
"On the fourth day of this trip, I was introduced to a professional, top-tier ski racer, and I said, 'Hey, look, I have this crazy idea about going to the Olympics with Jamaica. I have no idea what that means, but I'd like you to give me some advice and tell me whether I'm wasting my time or not.' So he said, 'Okay, let's ski' and we did," he continued.
"We skied together, he pulls me aside, and says, 'Okay, I'm going to be blunt. Your technique is absolutely terrible. It is the worst I have ever seen, but that's to be expected. You've skied 25 days in your entire life. This is a really tough sport. You need a lot of training and coaching,'" Benjamin recalled.
"But then he says, 'But I skied on the top level around the world. And I have no idea how the hell you're keeping up with me, you are absolutely fearless. If you're afraid, it doesn't matter how much technique you've got, you're never going to get there. But if you're fearless, we can teach you the technique and the rest will fall into place.'"
By the end of 2019, Benjamin moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and began training full time for the Winter Games.
Benjamin — who was actually born in the United Kingdom but has a Jamaican father — says, "I hope that in 30 years from now, we'll look back and be like, 'Yeah, that guy started it, and Jamaica has had great alpine skiers ever since.' So that's what I want it to be about," he said.
"I hope that by someone doing this and going through all the hurdles, particularly the administrative problems that I've had to figure out myself, it will mean that the younger athletes that come behind me get to focus on just being an athlete, and not have to worry about all of the hats that I've had to wear to get there," he explained.
As for his plans post-race, Benjamin hopes to lead the way for a new generation of skiers. "After the Olympics, my aim is to become the president of the Jamaican Ski Federation and to really start to build a camp, maybe even have like half a dozen to 10 athletes on skis and snowboards for Jamaica next time around," he said. "I hope to be at many more Olympics to come, but it won't be in a race suit, it'll be in a business suit. So I'm excited to begin that legacy."