Benjamin Alexander has already lived several lives. At the age of 38, he could easily be enjoying the luxurious life, dining out on his success as an international DJ and putting his feet up on the world's most idyllic beaches. Instead, the British-born athlete is attempting to become Jamaica's first Olympic alpine skier - and he is well on course to do that.
Alexander grew up in Northamptonshire, born to a British mother and a Jamaican father, who was part of the Windrush generation. He was a gifted child, able to access a now defunct government fund to attend private school, before focusing on an engineering degree at University College London, via a brief stint doing physics at Imperial College ("I absolutely hated it", he says).
Fast forward a number of years, and Alexander had moved to Asia, where he had been in wealth finance, when he began DJ-ing on the side. Eventually, it became his career, with residencies at several huge venues and gigs across the world. It was living that lifestyle that he first got a taste for skiing - before he finally got a chance to give it a proper go.
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"In 2016 I was DJ-ing at a swingers party in Whistler, and managed to get myself out of the hotel room with minimal sleep and just thought, here’s an opportunity to try that thing you said you wanted to do," he told Eurosport.
"I didn’t ski again until January 2017, location scouting for a festival that I founded. It wasn’t until 2018 that things really started to kick in. I went to the Olympics as a spectator - that was the founding moment of this story."
Much has been made about a comparison to Cool Runnings, and Dudley Stokes is his mentor. That has served as inspiration for Alexander, but it is his passion for the sport, and potential to do something for the first time, which really drives him.
"The International Olympic Committee believes the Games would be better if there were as many nations represented as possible. They allow every nation to put forward one female and one male athlete in every discipline at B criteria.
If you go onto the International Ski Federation website, you will see that I am the best Jamaican skier out there. That doesn't say much. If you look at the rankings, I believe I’m in 3748th place in the world for giant slalom - and I’m pretty damn close to where I need to be.
"Am I better than the average skier in terms of my ability to control a race ski on an icy surface? Hell yeah, way better. Am I better than a superstar Austrian kid who’s been skiing since he was two and racing since he was seven but now he’s 14? No, that 14 year old is probably much better than I am."
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Alexander is living a nomadic life, bouncing from resort to resort and receiving coaching off anyone who will give him the time. He is speaking to Eurosport from Hintertux in Austria, and a coaching arrangement he has in place has been postponed due to weather. So how close is he to qualifying for Beijing? Alexander says the times in training suggest only injury will stop him from making it.
"This grand journey of going from zero to Olympian is just one step at a time. When I did give up my DJ-ing, I was pretty successful at it, I got to perform in 35 different countries across five continents and had a lot of fun with it.
"There’s something quite magical about being picked up in a car, taken to a nice hotel and paid thousands of dollars to force people to listen to your music, and be the centre of attention while getting drunk - these are all good things to be paid for.
Now here I am, digging a massive financial hole around myself, to try and perform against these younger athletes who are head and shoulders above me in terms of my ability. Staying in budget hotels, really trying to piece everything together to make this work.
"This whole thing’s going to cost me about $100,000, I’m pretty sure. Now is the moment where it starts to get really expensive. Because of weather issues I have to stay in hotels way above my budget, I’m also having to buy tickets as I move around mountains, as opposed to just staying in one mountain. My expenses are ballooning right now, and as we get into the race season, it’s going to be more like my DJ life, getting on a plane every third day."
Part two of this interview will be published next week.
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