Nigeria’s Bobsled Team Qualifies For Winter Olympics

A-three-woman squad forming Nigeria’s bobsled team is determined to cause surprises in South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga want to make history at the 2018 Winter Olympics by representing Nigeria in the bobsled competition, according to The Root. The three women, who are based in Texas, are not only attempting to qualify, but they are also starting a bobsled federation in Africa.

In an interview with Okay Africa, the three women constituting Nigeria’s bobsled team discussed exactly how they got into bobsledding.

“I actually started doing a little bit more research and learned that Nigeria did not have, in history, a sports team that represent bobsled,” Adigun said. “So, I was like, ‘Wow, that would be something that’d be very positive and very good for the country itself.’”

Since the trio are all based in Houston, practicing on ice isn’t something that happens, so they have improvised.

Since we can’t get practice time on ice, what we do is we just focus on strengthening. So weightlifting and sprinting—since we all have that background—is something we already know how to do, but it’s just another repetition; just getting it in when you can. Strength is the most important thing for this sport, so that’s what the focus has been thus far, and also we have a pushcart as well that Seun actually initially created, which was a beast,” Omeoga said.

Not only are the women focusing on the bobsled, they also have a workload outside of the sport as students at the University of Houston. Adigun is studying for a doctorate in chiropractic and a master’s in fitness and human performance at the University of Houston; Onwumere is also pursuing a doctorate at the university, and Omeoga holds a full-time job as a health care recruiter.

Currently, the women are attempting to raise money via a GoFundMe campaign that hopes to raise $150,000 to help support their purchase of equipment and travel.

Spearheaded by former Team USA bobsled break(wo)man, who also ran for Nigeria’s track and field team in the 2012 Olympics, Seun Adigun, the three-person squad is taking on the challenge of qualifying to compete while establishing a bobsled federation not only for Nigeria, but for the entire African continent, Okay Africa reports.

As the driver, Adigun recruited Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere as her break (wo)men for Nigeria’s bobsled team. All three ladies have managed to balance their busy superwoman schedules (Adigun is pursuing a doctorate in chiropractic and a master’s in fitness and human performance at the University of Houston, Onwumere is also pursuing a doctorate at the same school and Omeoga is a healthcare recruiter) to train by any means necessary—including practicing with a bobsled they built out of wood.

Antoinette Isama for Okayafrica: The big question here is—why bobsledding? Why is this sport the next big thing for Nigeria?

Seun Adigun: I actually started doing a little bit more research and learned that Nigeria did not have, in history, a sports team that represent bobsled. So, I was like, “Wow, that would be something that’d be very positive and very good for the country itself.”

Then I realized that the entire continent had never been represented at the Olympic games. From my understanding, never in the history has there been a federation for bobsled for any country in Africa. The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) were looking to expand on the continent because it’s one of the last that needed to be represented for them to get the opportunity to expand the sport.

It just started growing to where it’s like, “Seun, you have to do this. You have to help create this team so that not only will it help the sport of bobsled and the IBSF, the country of Nigeria, the continent of Africa, women in sports, pretty much everything that you represent!” It took me a long time to determine whether or not I was going to actually take it on. When I finally decided, the two people that I knew would be perfect for it were these two right here!

They get it. They have the heart, they have the passion; they have the dedication. They’re also very determined in the sense that they can listen and they can learn and they’re intuitive, but they’re also people that will do the research and they’ll try and find out and figure out and understand what it is that happens. I just felt like we had such strong connections that they would trust me to take them into this lion’s den in starting this entire federation.

What does practicing bobsled involve? What kind of training do you have to do to prepare before you even get into the bobsled?

Akuoma Omeoga: Since we can’t get practice time on ice, what we do is we just focus on strengthening. So weightlifting and sprinting—since we all have that background— is something we already know how to do but it’s just another repetition; just getting it in when you can. Strength is the most important thing for this sport, so that’s what the focus has been thus far and also we have a push cart as well that Seun actually initially created which was a beast.

Ngozi Onwumere: She’s made us little engineers! We literally took wood in her garage and just started building things.

Adigun: Last year, because I had to come back more frequently than most people that were in the sport because I was in school, I decided once I knew I made the team, to garner up some wood and build a bobsled that I can use as something to push and keep me into it while I’m away so I don’t feel like I’m so disconnected. That bobsled went through some upgrades and it’s called the Maeflower. It’s basically one of those things I brought out and said, “All right ladies, so I’m going to teach you Bobsled 101 with this bobsled that I made out of wood.”

We’ve been using that to help understand the concepts and the mechanics that come with being a bobsled athlete. Two weeks ago, we built individual push carts that they could actually take, because this bobsled was actually a little bit larger, and practice even more reps on their own.

What are some other challenges you all have faced trying to make this a reality?

Adigun: The biggest challenge we have is starting a new federation for an entire continent. It’s just that it’s all new for everyone and the great thing about it is we have our country behind us. The Nigerian Olympic Committee is literally rallying behind us—the government; the people of Nigeria. People don’t know what it is but they’re still excited. The challenge is for us having to pioneer something.

Onwumere: I would say the biggest challenge for me is just the actual learning curve. We’re going into a completely new sport that we know nothing about. I knew nothing about bobsled. That was my first question I asked Seun. Actually competing or starting to practice and just doing things that seem completely awkward has been the biggest challenge for me.

Omeoga: I agree with that 100 percent. Definitely the learning curve and the unknown; especially in terms of race day—what does that include? With training, it’s easier because we’re all here and Seun’s actually been a huge help because she’s done it before and all types of stuff so she’s actually getting us very, very well prepared for that as we’re moving forward.

The determination exhibited by Nigeria’s bobsled team is phenomenal and inspirational. These young ladies rose above the odds to make their nation and continent proud; and they are determined to do much better at the Olympic Games. They are indeed Black superheroes and a source of motivation and pride for all Africans and Blacks in America as well.

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