By Chibogwu Nnadiegbulam
PYEONGCHANG, February 14, 2018 – A podium finish in the women’s skeleton event of the 2018 Winter Olympics may look unlikely now for Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo if her results in the Women’s Official Training Heats are anything to go by. For the 36-year-old the past three days have however still brought about a whole new experience.
Adeagbo, who is the first Nigerian, African and black female to compete in the head-first sliding sport of skeleton at the Olympics, produced the slowest times in all of the six runs held between Monday and Wednesday at the Olympic Sliding Centre in PyeongChang.
In an interview with AIPS at the mixed zone on Wednesday, Adeagbo said: “Each day has brought a different experience and that’s the whole experience and journey I’ve been having on this sport. Every time I step on the track I learn something new, so these last three days haven’t been different. Now for me it’s about going into race day and being able to pull from those different experiences and put together the best race that I can.”
“One of the basic things that you have to do when you are on the sled is relax and it’s so counterintuitive because you are going so fast – 80 miles an hour. Your face is just inches from the track and sometimes you tense up – that’s the opposite of what you want to do. Today, I felt that I was a bit tensed and I need to go back to the basics,” she explained.
On Monday, Adeagbo clocked 55.17 and 56.07 seconds in Heat 1 and 2 respectively. Both times landed her in 19th position out of the same number of competitors as South Korea’s Sophia Jeong did not start (DNS). The next day saw her finishing 20th with 55.56 and 56.60 seconds in Heat 3 and 4 respectively. She then maintained the same bottom position on Wednesday, clocking 55.85 and 56.05 seconds in Heat 5 and 6.
The above times may not win Adeagbo a medal in PyeongChang 2018, but they are signs of tremendous progress in her historic skeleton journey because only last month she completed her 5th and 6th races of the season in Lake Placid in 58.11 and 59.88 seconds respectively. Though those times gave her bronze medals at the North American Cup, they have no place on the Olympics stage.
“If you just relax on the sled and just enjoy and have fun you are going to go faster just because you are relaxed. So those are some of the reminders,” Adeagbo added as she shared her experience on the track with AIPS.
“And just making sure that I am timing my steers which is how you drive the sled. You use your head, your shoulders, your knees and your toes to do that. When the audience is watching on TV, they can’t see it but you make subtle little movements and you have to time them just right. So I have been playing around with that throughout the last three days,” she revealed.
“How do I time certain steers in certain places? Sometimes I’ve made it, other times I haven’t and I’ve had some big hits that remind me of what not to do. But those are good things to happen because you practice and you get better.”
The main event for Women’s Skeleton at PyeongChang 2018 will last for two days – Friday and Saturday – and there are four Heats. The competitor with the quickest combined time after the four runs wins gold. Adeagbo realizes that she is the least experienced in the fold having just touched a sled for the first time in September last year, but she has promised to give her all in representing her country Nigeria.
By Saturday, PyeongChang 2018 will officially be over for Adeagbo. She admitted to AIPS that everything has happened so fast and sometimes she wished she could pause for a bit of reflection. In the last four months the journey has been overwhelming for the former triple jumper, but what will happen after PyeongChang?
Adeagbo will be 40 by the time the next Winter Olympics come around in 2022 in Beijing, China. “I think for me right now I want to focus on the present. I don’t want to miss all of the great things that are happening now by thinking too far ahead but there would be time after this to really kind of evaluate next steps and what could be,” the University of Kentucky record holder in triple jump said.
“What I do know is that through the last few months I have seen the potential that I have in the sport. It’s really exciting and this is also what I want the world to see. So many of us may have potential in a sport that we may never have had exposure to. I didn’t know that I could be good at Skeleton but now I’m seeing that it’s possible so I think my future is bright I just have to kind of figure out the best way forward but right now I’m just focused on the present,” she concluded.