Photo: Courtesy of Team USA
By: Steve Sears
Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian remembers the life-altering discussion between she and her Rider University Track & Field coach, Rob Pasquariello.
“Coach ‘P’ brought up bobsledding to me my senior year at Rider, and it felt so random. I actually thought he was pranking me, because he knew of my Jamaican heritage and of course the movie, “Cool Runnings.” Little did I know he believed in my athletic abilities and Olympic hopes so much, he submitted my athletic resume to Team USA Bobsled on my behalf. I will never forget those initial conversations and how he supported me and still does.”
“The impact Coach ‘P’ has had in my life is priceless and ultimately changed the trajectory to be who and what I am today.”
And Fenlator-Victorian, who will be 36 on August 29, is not done with Bobsledding. “Currently I am still in training as a 2022 Winter Olympic hopeful. I am working on qualifying for my 3rd Olympics.” She also started her own business in 2021, working as a Social Media & Brand Strategist, as well as a Business Coach and Mentor.
Fenlator-Victorian says growing up in Wayne was interesting. “Although my parents worked extremely hard, we were not well off. They made it feel like we had everything though and made my sister and I, even friends and family who visited, feel so comfortable, well fed, and taken care of.” Her dad is Cosman Fenlator, a Jamaican born immigrant to the United States and now a dual citizen, and her mom, Susan Fenlator, a 2nd generation born in this country with an Eastern European/Baltic heritage. “My parents loved hanging out in our yard and created a beautiful garden. Some of the neighborhood kids would ride their bikes by and ask my mom if they could have some flowers to bring to their mom’s. I primarily grew being the only or one of 3 or 4 brown and black kids in my class, even in my schools. I am biracial and, despite how much my parents educated me and always provided positivity around my uniqueness and whole self, I did often grow up alone, misunderstood, confused, and out of place. Things can be difficult, especially as a big dreamer, when everyone around you doesn’t look like you and even questions who and what you yourself are.” Fenlator-Victorian has one sister, who is 9 years younger. “I love being the older sister to help guide her through life, but also having someone that I get to be silly with. She makes me laugh all the time where my stomach cramps and I’m rolling around in tears. We have a blast together and have really bonded in our adult life.”
When Fenlator-Victorian attended Wayne Valley High School, she initially chose to take part in that Student Dance Association and also joined Gymnastics. “That evolved into Mr. Bannat, my freshman year Physical Education teacher, mentioning to me to go out for the track team, along with some other friends’ support.” Fenlator-Victorian became a three-season sport varsity athlete: Gymnastics in the fall, Indoor Track & Field in the winter, and Outdoor Track & Field for the spring. “I believe the support of my Track & Field coaches – Mr. Flower, Mr. Bannat, Mr. Slater, and Mr. Oaky – is what helped really shape the beginning stages of my Olympic aspirations. Becoming serious, the discipline needed, the foundational understanding that it is not just about showing up physically but also mentally, and how little things add up to big victories both personally and in career.”
After desiring to attend a college on the west coast, she chose Rider University as her next stop – for a few very good reasons. In her junior and senior year in high school, her mom’s Lupus flared up, Mrs. Fenlator sick with a cold that ended up lasting months on end and even warranted 911 calls in the middle of the night. “I wanted to travel and (go) to school on the west coast, but I didn’t want to be so far away if something happened either, so I started focusing on schools that were recruiting me on the east coast. I primarily selected Rider University for the environment. As a young student athlete, the transition to college and adult life is already a whirlwind.” While on a tour, she met Pasquariello, whom she affectionately calls “Coach P.” “It felt familiar. The neighborhood the campus was in, the team and how open and excited they were, as well as the opportunities of education. I just felt comfortable in a new place of life I was headed, and Coach ‘P’ really listened and heard me as well.”
Making the switch to Bobsledding from Track & Field had its ups and downs. “The sport itself can only be done in specific places around the world with a bobsled track,” Fenlator-Victorian says. “Learning the sport in that capacity, the equipment, and how the sport operations are is definitely a learning curve. As for the physical training, that in itself was not as bad since I was already doing a lot of the work for Track & Field. As I learned more about the sport and worked with my coaches, I was able to optimize my training specifically for bobsled.”
Initially a brakeman, Fenlator-Victorian then switched to the driver’s seat. She explains. “I started as a brakeman, as most do entering the sport. It is a great way to really learn and transition. Some people love the position and optimize their career in that roll. On USA Bobsled, they have a driving school at the end of the season to invite brakeman and even youth to drive bobsleds. At the end of the school as long as you are driving “safely” they would hold a little race for fun. I was part of this process and from the moment I jumped into the driver’s seat, I was hooked. I loved it. The mental challenges, the combination of physical and mental performance, the difference in seeing the speed and making those decisions was a RUSH!”
Fenlator-Victorian has competed in two Olympic Games, representing both the United States (Sochi, Russia in 2014) and Jamaica (PyeongChang, South Korea, 2018). “This is so hard to put into words as both journeys to each were completely different and had its challenges,” she says of both experiences. “I feel so honored and privileged to have had the opportunities in my athletic career to do what I love, grow as an individual, make an impact, and use my platform for others to have a path and go beyond in their own way, too.”
For Fenlator-Victorian, she considers the move from Team USA to competing for Jamaica a return to her other home. “Being biracial and having an immigrant family,” she explains, “it is important to be educated about where you came from, what makes you and your family you. Jamaica has always been a huge part of me despite being born and primarily living in the United States. When I became part of the, team it just felt right, and I was embraced with open arms.” And Fenlator-Victorian, who has been married to her husband, Surf, for 6 years, says her biggest achievement is defying the odds: dancer to Track & Field, to the first 4-year college graduate and student athlete, to bobsledding, to entrepreneur and public speaker. She elaborates. “When I switched to represent Jamaica, I received an abundance of support, but there are two sides to a coin and that transition came with it’s hardships. To be able to qualify for the 2018 Olympics and open new doors for the black and brown community in winter sports, and specifically females, was huge and one of my lifetime achievements. The other one is starting my own business and being able to have an impact for individuals, small business and athletes to bring their version of success to life like my support system has for me.”
Her family has had the biggest influence on her. “Specifically, my mom, husband, and Coach ‘P’ (he is definitely considered family),” she states. “All three of them have allowed me to express myself unapologetically, embrace all my crazy ideas and aspirations, and do all they can to support me in all the ways. I have learned so much from my tight little circle, and although I stand on my own two feet and beat to my own drum, they provided the foundation for me to do that and continue to soar.”
Fenlator-Victorian, a 4th generation member of the Order of Eastern Star and a Rainbow Girls (organizations affiliated with the Masonic Temple), welcomes the opportunity to connect with her Wayne community. Visit her on Instagram at @jazminefenlator, on LinkedIn at Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JazBobsled.