Nigerian women’s bobsleigh and skeleton team will make a historic appearance at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month with foundation built on years of training on the track.
The bobsleigh team — comprising Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, and the skeleton athlete Simidele Adeagbo — were all former track and field athletes.
The trio of Adigun, Onwumere and Omeoga made history, becoming Africa’s first ever bobsleigh team to the Winter Olympics, after successfully completing five races held across North America in Utah, Whistler and Calgary to qualify for Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games – February 9-25.
Seun Adigun, who competed on the track at the University of Houston, is the driver of the team. She’s a three-time Nigerian national hurdles champion and represented Nigeria in the women’s 100m hurdles at the summer Olympic Games London 2012, and IAAF World Championships in Berlin (2009) and in Daegu (2011).
She was also the 2010 African 100m hurdles champion in Nairobi, Kenya (13.14) and won the 2011 All-African Games gold medal in Maputo, Mozambique, winning in 13.20 secs.
Ms Adigun graduated with a dual degree of a Doctorate of Chiropractic from Texas Chiropractic College and a Masters of Science in Exercise & Health Science University of Houston Clear Lake in December 2017.
Ngozi Onwumere, a brakewoman, won a gold medal with the Nigerian women’s 4x100m team at the All-African Games in Brazzaville, Congo and a silver medal in the 200m.
She also represented Nigeria at the 2015 IAAF World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas; competed on the track at the University of Houston; and is now a full-time student pursuing a Doctorate degree.
Akuoma Omeoga, another brakewoman, is a former collegiate track and field athlete for the University of Minnesota and now works as a healthcare recruiter.
The journey from track to the ice
Whilst Seun was training as a rookie brakewoman on the United States women’s bobsled team, she noticed that there was no African representation in the sport, and an idea was formed.
She then recruited two friends she met in Houston — both former track and field athletes, both born to Nigerian parents — and in 2014, inside a garage, the three women began building a makeshift wooden sled and an even bigger dream.
The trio made international headlines with the announcement in 2016 that they had formed the first-ever Nigerian women’s bobsleigh team. Ms Adigun launched a Go Fund Me campaign late 2016 to raise the $75,000 USD needed to fund their Olympic bid. The target was achieved in just 11 months.
The 31-year-old told ESPN: “The sport of bobsleigh was looking to grow and the continent of Africa had never been represented in the sport of bobsleigh. Once I finalised my decision to take on this mission, I knew I would need teammates so I reached out to these lovely women, Ngozi and Akuoma.
“One of the things that you aspire to is to have a podium spot with respect for the process and respect for the learning curve of what it is that we’re actually doing.”
“Their hard work was inspiring and I hope Nigerians can appreciate what it took for them to achieve this,” noted Solomon Ogba, BSF Nigeria’s president.
“I have watched them train and work hard to represent Nigeria at the Winter Olympics in a very technical and high-risk sport and they have achieved that.”
Meanwhile, Simidele Adeagbo, a former triple and long jumper, has become the first female Nigerian skeleton athlete to qualify for the skeleton competition at the Winters Olympics.
Adeagbo competed for the University of Kentucky where she was a four time All-American and school record holder in the triple jump. She was also consistently ranked nationally and was a two-time U.S. Olympic Trials finalists in the triple jump, narrowly missing a spot on the 2008 Olympic Team.
The 36-year-old, who only took up skeleton four months ago, will compete in Pyeongchang 2018 after finishing third in her two races at the North American Cup in Lake Placid, New York last weekend.
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Yomi is the founder of Africa's number one track and field website - AthleticsAfrica. A multi award-winning editor, journalism innovator, media trainer, sports and digital transformation consultant.