Nigeria women's bobsled team create history by qualifying for 2018 Winter Olympics
The trio of Seun, Ngozi and Akuoma have completed a true fairytale after relying on a crowdfunding campaign to become the first ever African team to qualify.
Nigeria’s women's bobsled team became the first ever from Africa to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
It will also be the first time in Nigeria’s history that it will be represented at the Winter Olympics. The three-member team, formed in 2016, will be competing at the event to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February next year.
Seun, Ngozi, and Akuoma
The trio, composed of driver Seun Adigun, brakemen Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga, qualified for the event after finishing fifth over five qualifying races held in Utah, Whistler and Calgary.
"This is a huge milestone for sports in Nigeria," team captain Adigun told ESPN, "Nothing makes me prouder than to know that I can play a small role in creating opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria."
"Our objective now is to be the best representation of Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed."
In an interview with CBC, Adigun revealed that the trio built their sled – named the Mayflower – at home, out of wood they picked up at the local hardware store.
Last December, the team had to resort to crowdfunding to back their ambitions of reaching the Winter Olympics.
Via GoFundMe, they raised their $75,000 target and attracted interest from global brands, with Under Armour and Visa coming sponsoring them.
Nigerian national pride
Solomon Ogba, President of the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria, told the media that he was very proud of the trio.
"I commend the personal dedication and commitment of these women.
"Their hard work was inspiring and I hope Nigerians can appreciate what it took for them to achieve this - the work, the discipline, and the personal sacrifices. They were amazing throughout this journey.
"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. They should be very proud, and I am very proud of them."
The bobsled trio might not be the only Nigerian representatives in next year’s Winter Olympics, as Simi Adeagbo, is still on the race to qualify for the Games in the skeleton.
Tropical Africans at the Winter Olympics
Several African tropical nations have participated in the Winter Olympics, though, none of them have ever won a medal.
Senegalese skier Lamine Guèye was the first ever black African participant in the event, competing in 1984. He currently is the president of the Senegalese Ski Federation.
Robel Teklemariam, from Ethiopia, had no initial backing on the pursue of his Olympic dream. He moved to the United States at the age of nine and was inspired by the film Cool Runnings to try to participate in the Games.
He spent thousands of dollars on phone calls trying to get approval from Ethiopian sports authorities before they finally gave him permission to participate in the 2006 Torino Games.
Athletes from Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Togo an Zimbabwe have also participated in the Winter Olympics.
One of the most popular ‘underdog’ stories of the Winter Olympic Games is that of the Jamaican national bobsleigh team at the 1988 Games in Calgary.
The team, consisting of Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Michael White, Freddy Powell and Chris Stokes, became very popular not only because of their provenance, but also because of their lack of experience going down a bobsled track.
In fact, they had to borrow spare sleds from other countries to compete. Bobsledders from around the world gave them guidance and support.
On their Olympic debut, despite not finishing the race, the team gained the sympathy of sports fans around the world. The Olympic debutants were inspiration for the comedy film Cool Runnings (1993), one of the most popular sports films of recent decades.