When you think of bobsled competitions, chances of you thinking of Africa in any way, shape or form are slim. Maybe an island nation like Jamaica, but not a country like Nigeria. However, three Nigerian women are determined to be the first-ever African representative in the sport of bobsled. But first, they need a sled.
“I kind of had Olympic fever again,” said former track star Seun Adigun to CBS News. Adigun, born outside of Chicago, competed for the Nigerian team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. After watching the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and seeing other track stars trying their hand at the bobsled, which would include hurdler Lolo Jones, Adigun found herself inspired.
“I figured, you know, I think I can try this,” she said.
So Adigun, who is the driver of the trio, teamed up with Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, her brakewomen, whom she knows from being an assistant track coach at the University of Houston and from living in the city. They are currently training in the hopes of competing at the 2018 Winter games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Despite there being no history of an African bobsled team, Adigun told Buzzfeed News they’ve found a great deal of support from the Nigerian Olympic committee.
“The first Vice President, Chief Solomon Ogba, has played a very important role in helping us get set up and acquiring the full support of the remaining NOC executive members,” she said. “We are actually very blessed at Nigeria’s initiative as a unit in supporting something that has never been done before.”
But about that sled… The women do not have an actual sled to train with, so in the meantime, they’ve been training vigorously with a wooden sled called “The Mayflower” that Adigun crafted herself. However, she has set up a GoFundMe account in the hopes of acquiring the funds necessary to get a sled, along with other essentials, including gear like uniforms, athlete insurance, and ice time for practice. Adigun has raised $12,820 of a goal of $150,000.
She has already traveled to Utah to do specific driver training, and is optimistic about the women’s chances of getting to PyeongChang. And while Adigun, Onwumere and Omeoga may not have decided to take on this endeavor because of the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the ’88 Winter games (i.e., the inspiration behind Cool Runnings), they are inspired by it.
“These men did something very special,” Adigun told CBS News. “And to be able to have, you know, everyone who’s hearing our story put us on the same line of legacy that these men have created, that’s… that’s really honorable.”
And as she told BuzzFeed News, no matter how things turn out, the hope is that Nigerians and athletes from other African nations won’t be afraid of giving the sport of bobsled a chance in the future.
“This goes far beyond South Korea — this team is being designed to empower more Nigerian and African teams to increase their involvement in the sport of bobsled,” Adigun said. “No matter how the cookie crumbles, it will be a win-win for everyone.”
Eh heh! As the saying goes, “Naija no dey carry last.”
Images via Instagram and Obi Grant