Nigerian women’s bobsled team wants to be more than history-makers at the Winter Olympics

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This year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang marks a special occasion for Nigeria. The African nation has, unsurprisingly, never attended a Winter Olympics given that the average temperature in the country is 27C,  which makes it virtually impossible to prepare for sports which take place in ice or snow. There is actually no documented case of snow falling in Nigeria, reinforcing how training would be quite the challenge.

However, this hasn’t stopped Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere. These three women will represent Nigeria at this year’s Winter Olympics in the bobsled. This means that they will not only be Nigeria’s first ever bobsled team competing, but also the first ever Africans to compete at the games in this sport. However, the women do not want this to be what they are remembered for; they are desperate for a medal.

A team from the USA competing in the bobsled

All three women have been successful track and field athletes away from the ice. Notably, Seun Adigun showed particular success in the 100m hurdles, winning multiple championships and even representing Nigeria at the London 2012 Olympic Games. However, with the ambition to do more, she set up a GoFundMe campaign in 2016 to raise the £66,000 needed to fund her Winter Olympic bid. Having reached her target in just 11 months, Adigun built a wooden training sled and recruited Akuoma and Ngozi to begin training in Houston, Texas. When the two first joined Adigun to form the first ever Nigerian bobsled team, they were understandably skeptical. However, after Adigun explained her hope of encouraging Nigerians to get involved in more winter sports in the future, the pair were quickly on board.

They practised together for the first time in October 2016, pushing the wooden bobsled around the inside of the University of Houston’s athletic centre. Following hard work with their training, the team competed in their first competition in January 2017. Evidently, they inspired the world with their journey, for the athletes landed multiple sponsorships, including from notable brands Visa and Beats Electronics. Although they still had a long way to go before qualifying for the Olympics, the women had a huge amount of support and were determined to make it.

In order to qualify to compete at the Winter Olympics, bobsled teams are required to complete five qualifying races and to be ranked within the top 40 in the world. The Nigerian team completed races in Utah and Whistler before successfully finishing two in Calgary in November 2017 to finally accomplish their dream of qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Bobsled driver Seun Adigun described this victory as a “huge milestone for sports in Nigeria” and added that “nothing makes me prouder than to know that I can play a small role in creating opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria.”

Although the Nigerian team will be up against tough competition from more experienced squads such as the USA, Canada and Germany which will make it difficult to achieve a medal position, the inspiration they have given Nigeria and other African nations may be considered a greater achievement.  We wish them every success in their attempt to create Winter Olympic history.