Nigeria’s first bobsled team running for pride and legacy

Nigeria's first bobsled

NEW YORK – Seun Adigun instructed herself her athletic profession was achieved after she ran her final race on the 2012 Summer time Olympics in London. However for some cause, she could not convey herself to inform the world.

Three years later, she realized: Adigun wasn’t retiring – she was readying for a brand new sport. And her years competing as a 100-meter hurdler have been nice preparation what would come subsequent.

“It was the pace and the facility and the power that I wanted to have the ability to be a profitable bobsled athlete,” she stated.

Adigun, 31, quickly satisfied fellow former runners Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga to hitch the workforce as brakemen. However they would not simply be newcomers to the game.

Subsequent month, the trio will symbolize Nigeria because the nation fields its first-ever bobsled workforce on the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The workforce can also be a primary, males’s or ladies’s, for your entire continent of Africa.

Sure, they get the comparisons to “Cool Runnings” – the 1993 movie based mostly on the true story of the Jamaica’s first bobsled workforce, which was male, who competed within the 1988 Winter Video games in Calgary, Canada – and say it is a legacy they embrace and a following they hope to emulate.

However the peppy pioneers, all American-born and whose dad and mom emigrated from Nigeria, stated additionally they look ahead to representing a optimistic story about their motherland.

“Nigerians are so excited to see the nation being represented,” stated Adigun, a Chicago native who can also be a three-time nationwide monitor champion for Nigeria. “I noticed precisely what was a void from the nation of Nigeria, from the continent of Africa, and for girls basically being represented.”

Onwumere, 26, agreed, including: “To be the primary to do something is, I feel, it is simply one thing you can’t actually clarify.”

Their story will possible tackle added that means subsequent month, after President Donald Trump’s current remarks about Africa’s “shithole nations.”

Their journey to South Korea has additionally been a quick one. Three years in the past, the workforce was little greater than an thought, a “loopy however superb journey,” stated Adigun, the driving force in position and persona who additionally helped recruit and coach Onwumere, who hails from Dallas, at their alma mater, the College of Houston.

As soon as her teammates have been on board, official Olympic guidelines required them to function underneath a nationwide governing physique. None existed.

The Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria was shaped. A GoFund Me marketing campaign was created in 2016, and the workforce raised greater than $75,000 in 14 months to pay for requirements like helmets, uniforms, journey and their first sled – a wood vessel affectionately named “The Maeflower.” They started practising in Houston, with out snow.

The workforce’s recognition quickly attracted Visa and Underneath Armour as sponsors. To qualify for the Winter Video games, the ladies needed to full 5 races. They met their purpose in November.

Alongside the way in which, their vitality and enthusiasm has attracted consideration within the U.S. and Nigeria. In December, they appeared on “The Ellen Present,” and final week, tennis icon Serena Williams retweeted their Underneath Armour Olympics advert.

The workforce stated they’re excited to stroll into the stadium in Pyeongchang subsequent month and have been working onerous to be aggressive as rookies amongst a pool of gifted and skilled bobsledders. Their primary purpose is to be an instance for his or her nation and for girls within the sport.

A medal is nearly an excessive amount of to think about, stated Omeoga, 26, who ran monitor on the College of Minnesota.

“That really has by no means even crossed my thoughts but,” she stated. “I am simply taking issues someday at a time: Do not get too forward of your self, do not get too behind your self, do not promote your self brief on something.”