PyeongChang 2018: life-changing Games for Nigeria’s trailblazing contingent

By Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam

PYEONGCHANG, February 9, 2018 – Global media attention and nationwide stardom. It’s been a rollercoaster ride and rightly so, all in acknowledgement of the historic feat of four Nigerian women who broke away from the norm and took the world by storm by leading their country to its first-ever Winter Olympics.

Today could have been just another day at the office – probably one that would have involved just another business trip – for Simidele Adeagbo who works as a brand manager at Nike Inc., in Johannesburg, South Africa. However, that one-time regular girl – you probably never knew – has flipped the script and is in PyeongChang, South Korea as the first Nigerian, African and Black female Skeleton athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

The 36-year-old got featured in Nike’s short film, Forever First, where she said: “Being first [it] doesn’t always last. But being the first to go where they said you shouldn’t; the first to do what they didn’t expect; the first to charge a new course – that lasts forever.”

In 2008, Adeagbo who was a triple jumper with the USA, missed out on the Summer Olympics by eight inches. It was her last try on sand and she moved on with her life afterwards.

Ten years later, she is leaving an indelible mark on ice and snow.

“Ultimately, for me, this is about breaking barriers in winter sports. It’s about making history and leaving a legacy. It’s about moving sport forward.

“That’s so much bigger than just me being an Olympian,” the four-time NCAA All American and triple jump record holder for the University of Kentucky said on her official website.

Adeagbo’s story to stardom can not be complete without the mention of Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga – the three women that make up Africa’s first-ever bobsled team at a Winter Olympics.

Adeagbo was inspired after she read about the history-making bobsledders and the rest, they say, is history.

These pioneers, Adigun, Onwumere and Omeoga, have traversed the length and breadth of various media platforms home and abroad since breaking new grounds as far as sports in Nigeria (and Africa) is concerned – from the world renowned ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ to ‘CNN African voices’.

They were also tapped by Beats by Dre for its global “Above the Noise” campaign. A video which gave Tennis great Serena Williams chills and led her to tweet thus: “…I am so excited to watch Nigeria compete in the winter Olympics bobsledding race the first time an African country has ever competed in bobsledding!”

The National Olympic Committee and the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria treated the quartet to a heroes’ welcome when they arrived in the country last Thursday.

Having already attracted sponsorship from Visa, Under Armour and TravelStart – which has KLM Nigeria as partners, Nigerian Breweries Plc also announced their support for the team.

“We assure you that we have not come this far to give up but to make history. We want to make something special in Korea,” said Seun Adigun, the driver of Nigeria’s Women’s bobsled team, at a press conference held in Nigeria before their departure to South Korea.

She added: “The fact that we are pioneers in the sport in Nigeria makes it more delightful and the fact that we are already having a positive impact in the world is something that will spur us not only to participate at the games but also to compete for medals.”

Ngozi Onwumere, one of the breakwomen in the team, echoed Adigun’s optimism when she stated: “To be the first to do anything is, I think, it’s just something that you can’t really explain.

“We don’t just want the dream to stop by qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang but making history by winning.”

Meanwhile Akuoma Omeoga, the other breakwoman in the team added: “I’m just taking things one day at a time: Don’t get too ahead of yourself, don’t get too behind yourself, and don’t sell yourself short on anything.”

In truth, it would not matter much how they perform at PyeongChang 2018. They have blazed a trail and hopefully there will be others to follow in their footsteps. Last December the Bobsled & Skeleton Federation of Nigeria and Temple Management Company (TMC) released an all-star theme song titled ‘The Ice blazers’ to cheer the team on in their remarkable journey.

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