Three Nigerian women – Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga – have made history this Winter Olympics as the first-ever qualifying African bobsled team and the first-ever Nigerian competitors at the Winter Olympics, according to CNN. Bobsled wasn’t their main sport – all three women previously competed as track and field athletes.
Adigun learned that Nigeria never had Olympic athletes and that Africa specifically never had bobsled athletes, according to People. In addition, she was tired of track and field after competing for three years and wanted to try a different sport, according to Visa. As a result, Adigun joined the bobsled team and convinced a couple friends to participate alongside her.
“Once she explained that this was for a continent,” Onwumere said, “I was like, ‘yeah, it would be absurd not to do it.”
Adigun also realized the team could make history and inspire other Nigerian athletes, Time Magazine reports. The trio visited Nigeria last spring to promote the sport and they were greeted enthusiastically.
Onwumere described how track bears similarities to bobsledding in terms of training and technicalities.
“The start of a race is actually very similar to the start of a track race, just the buildup,” she said. “You have to push. In track and field, you have to push as well.”
These women began the sport in an untraditional way – in Houston, Texas on dry land in a wooden sled nicknamed the “Maeflower,” according to the official Winter Olympics website. Adigun spent 72 hours building this sled, according to Visa.
The team originally raised money through crowdfunding, but Visa later heard their story and helped the team financially. As a result, the three athletes have also become part of Team Visa, an incredible opportunity which surprised them.
“I was very excited, to say the least, at the opportunity to not only join such a major company as part of Team Visa, but also be a part of a company that stands for something so strong and so important and has been such a huge influence for not only just athletes, but people in general,” Adigun said. “It aligns so perfectly with our mission for trying to empower the world and do amazing things for people to actually grow and do fearless things in life.”
“When we first heard their story, we recognised the collective spirit of these athletes as a perfect fit for Team Visa,” said Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa. “By joining Team Visa, we hope to provide this group of determined athletes with a global stage to tell their story and inspire athletes all over the world to follow their dreams and never give up.”
People often compare the trio to the movie Cool Runnings, where a disqualified Jamaican sprinter helps start the first Jamaican bobsled team, and the women take pride in this comparison.
“It is such an honor to be compared to athletes who paved ways,” Onmuwere said in an interview with She Leads Africa. “They made a legacy and we aim to do the same for Nigeria, anywhere you leave your imprint, there will always be longevity in relationships and intercrossing of paths.”
These three former track stars have faced challenges during their journey to the Winter Olympics, such as training off the ice, yet their determination has helped them pave new paths for Nigerian and female athletes.
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