By Liz Roscher, Fourth-Place Medal
The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin in PyeongChang in just eight short weeks, and there will be a flurry of talented, interesting, and inspirational athletes competing for medals. But there are three athletes you should definitely get to know: Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, and Ngozi Onwumere, who make up the first ever Nigerian women’s bobsled team. Their journey to the Olympics has been been phenomenal and unlikely, and right now is a great time to learn a bit more about these wonderful women.
THEY’RE ACCOMPLISHING A HISTORIC FIRST
When Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, and Ngozi Onwumere take the track in PyeongChang, they’ll be the first Winter Olympians from Nigeria. Adigun, who is the driver, will be the first bobsled driver to represent an African nation in the Olympics. While the three women are not from Nigeria, all of their parents are from there, and that’s how they’re able to represent Nigeria in the Winter Olympics for the very first time.
Adigun told BuzzFeed News that she knows how special and important this Olympic moment will be for her, her teammates, and for many others.
“Making it to the Olympic Games will be a very pivotal moment in not only the history of Nigeria and African, but also in the sport of bobsled,” Adigun wrote. “Everyone is aware of how special this situation is, and we are all in agreement that the foundations of this team need to be solid.”
THEY’RE ALL TRACK ATHLETES
Like several athletes on the women’s bobsled team at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Adigun, Omeoga, and Onwumere are all track athletes. Adigun, who had the idea to compete in bobsled for Nigeria, competed in track for Nigeria in the 2012 Summer Olympics. According to NBCOlympics.com, Adigun met Omeoga, a University of Minnesota sprinter, through a mutual friend. And she knew Onwumere, also a sprinter, from her time as assistant track and field coach at the University of Houston. And it didn’t take much convincing for Adigun to get them on board — they all jumped right in together.
THEY WERE ON “ELLEN” RECENTLY, AND TOTALLY SLAYED
I’m not sure if you could find three women who have more fun than the Nigerian women’s bobsled team. They went on “Ellen” in early December and had the time of their lives.
THEY RAISED MONEY FOR THEIR BOBSLEDDING ON GOFUNDME
Bobsleds are expensive, and so is training, ice time, athlete insurance, and assorted bobsledding gear. So they started a campaign on GoFundMe to raise the cash. But in the meantime, Adigun built a wooden practice sled through trial and error. After a few tries she got it right, and the team uses it to practice pushoffs on an indoor track.
If you’re wondering how they practice on an indoor track, Adigun posted a video of one of their practice sessions on Instagram last year.
By the way, their GoFundMe was fully funded and raised $75,000 to help the ladies achieve their goal.
THE NIGERIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE HAS BEEN VERY SUPPORTIVE
Getting a winter-less country like Nigeria to support a winter sport could have been difficult, but Adigun told BuzzFeed News that they’ve had a lot of support.
“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.”
Adigun also told Ellen that Nigerian citizens are also incredibly excited, even though most have never seen a bobsled and aren’t sure what it is.
THEY’RE STILL LEARNING HOW TO BOBSLED
With their team less than 18 months old, the trio is still learning how to bobsled. Adigun talked to Ellen DeGeneres about how she feels at the end of every race.
“To be honest, we’re still learning how to do bobsled. I, fortunately, have been in the sport for, this will be my third season, but my first season as a driver fully is this one. Imagine taking a 16-year-old who’s just learned how to drive and throwing them in Daytona . It’s one of those things where, yeah, he knows how to drive, but it’s a whirlwind. Like, every time literally I cross the finish line I’m screaming because I’m like, ‘Thank God we survived!’”
Since they’re still learning, they don’t measure up to the bobsled teams from other countries like the U.S. and Switzerland, at least not yet. The trio is keeping their expectations realistic, striving to learn and gain experience.
IT’S NOT ABOUT WINNING
For Adigun, Omeoga, and Onwumere, it’s not about winning a gold medal, or even any medal. For them, competing at the Olympics is about making history, representing Nigeria, and paving the way for Nigerian bobsledders of the future. With the dedication and spirit these three women have shown, they’re bound to inspire not just Nigerians, but boys and girls from around the world.