Nigerian bobsledding trio off to the Winter Olympics
They’re the first African bobsledding team to take part in the Winter Olympics – and they’re going for gold!
THEY haven’t stepped onto the ice yet and they’re already being regarded as winners. These three women have defied the odds to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics – despite hailing from a land that nudges the equator and has never seen snow. Not only are Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga the first athletes to represent Nigeria in the Winter Olympics, they’re also Africa’s first bobsled team to compete in the Games.
It was an ambitious project to begin with but the trio was determined to make it work. Their first qualifying race was in the North America Cup in Pa r k City, Utah, where Adigun (30) and Omeoga (25) completed two races in January.
They then went on to Whistler, Canada, for their second contest – and Adigun and Onwumere (25) were the only team to complete the first race.
Their daring efforts paid off in Calgary, Canada, when they completed their fourth and fifth races for a place at the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang in South Korea.
“I basically got into the sport of bobsledding in 2015 after a little bit of a hiatus from athletics,” Adigun told People magazine.
“I also learnt that Nigeria had never had any Winter Olympians . . . Then to cap it off, I learnt that the continent of Africa had never been represented, man or woman, by any bobsled team.
“So I was like, ‘Okay, this is obviously something that is gonna hang over my head if I don’t step in and try to do something about it.’”
The three women are all former track athletes and making the transition to bobsledding wasn’t all that hard.
“The only thing that’s really different in terms of the actual sport itself is the winter aspect of it and it being so labour intensive,” Onwumere says. “In track and field, usually we get there, get ready, get mentally ready, get on the track and run.
“Bobsledding takes a little more preparation but the dedication and the will to win is exactly the same.”
THE team was formed in 2016 by Adigun, who is no stranger to the world stage having represented Nigeria in the 100m hurdles at the 2012 Olympics in London. “I know this will be one of the most impactful things I’ll ever initiate,” she says.
“Together we can demonstrate that nothing is impossible with a little faith, support and willingness to persevere.”
All three women have dual US-Nigerian citizenship. They have Nigerian parents but were born in America – Adigun in Chicago, Omeoga in Minnesota and Onwumere in Houston.
Adigun decided to try out bobsledding after retiring from athletics and, natural athlete that she is, made the 2015 USA bobsled team. A year later she decided to form one in the name of Nigeria. Adigun told ESPN this is a major milestone for sport in tropical Nigeria.
Bobsledding is a winter sport where the driver navigates the sled down an ice track, while the brakeman pulls up the brake at the driver’s command to control the speeding vehicle.
In the male version of the sport, a sled can carry up to four athletes. However, competitions for women can only have two athletes in the sled, so Omeoga and Onwumere alternate.
“Our objective is to be the best representation of Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed.”
The women are all former track and field athletes and believe they have what it takes to win gold.
LEFT: Nigerian bobsledding trio (from left) Akuoma Omeoga, Seun Adigun and Ngozi Onwumere are the first African athletes to participate in the Winter Olympics (ABOVE).