The 1993 hit movie Cool Runnings was based on a true story in the 1988 Winter Olympics, where American business consultant George Fitch thought that fast Jamaican runners would make excellent bobsled runners. After a few disastrous starts, the team eventually came to finish 14th in the 1994 Winter Olympics – its best finish yet. What makes the team’s formation significant is that it was the first of its kind – a bobsledding team from a warm country.
Since then, there have been several other similar breakouts, one of the most notable being in the 2002 Winter Olympics, when Australia’s Steven Bradbury won the gold in short-track speedskating. The 2018 Winter Olympics promises to bring more breakouts, including a skater from Malaysia and an alpine skier from Eritrea, but the biggest breakout, however, seems to be Nigeria’s first female bobsledding team.
The team will also be the Nigeria’s first foray into the Winter Olympics.
The three-woman team consists of Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, with Adigun as the driver and Onwumere and Omeoga as her brakewomen. All three women come to the event with previous athletic experience: Adigun has represented Nigeria in the 2012 Olympics for the hurdles, Onwumere has won two medals as a sprinter in the 2015 African Games, and Omeoga was a sprinter for the University of Minnesota.
The team’s story actually began in Houston, where the women began training with a wooden sled they dubbed, “The Maeflower.” Since then, they have raised enough money through a GoFundMe to be able to compete in the five qualifying races, and after recently completing the fifth race in Calgary, they signed a sponsorship deal with Visa that will allow them to represent not only as the first Nigerian bobsledding team, but also, as the first African bobsledding team in the Winter Olympics.
“Ecstatic to say the least! You ladies showed nothing but pure heart and dedication,” wrote the Bobsled & Skeleton Sports Federation of Nigeria (BSFN) on Instagram following the completion of the team’s fifth qualifying race. “To see a mere dream come to reality is a true blessing. God bless you all and thank you for representing Nigeria so well!”
“Their hard work was inspiring and I hope Nigerians can appreciate what it took for them to achieve this,” said BSFN president Solomon Ogba. “They are all very successful people in their own right — in sports and out of it, and somehow they are still motivated and still push for more success. 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.”
“We are from a continent that would never imagine sliding down ice at 80 or 90 miles per hour,” Adigun said in an interview with BBC. “I find the idea of getting people to take to that inspiring in itself.”
Not only should the sheer amount of effort these women have put into the foray inspire other Nigerians – it should serve to inspire little girls as well, who perhaps dream of one day succeeding in the athletic world, whichever part that world it may be.
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