Aaron Kim Hacienda Heights 10th Grade
With the new year and upcoming Winter Olympics, three Nigerian women have proved that a snowy country is not an essential even when competing in the sport of bobsledding. History is being made as the first ever African bobsled team qualify for this year’s Winter Olympic Games held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga are the three athletes who will be first ever Nigerian athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics. What many don’t know is that all three were American-born runners, track stars to be exact. All three had successes in running according to CNN’s Michelle Cohan: “Omwmuere competed in the All-African games, and Adigun made it to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where she competed in the 100-meter hurdles.”
It was Adigun’s idea to shift gears from running to bobsledding. Adigun started off on Team USA’s bobsled team for one year as a brakeman, but realized that Nigeria never had a bobsled team and that Africa had never even been represented in the sport.
Houston, Texas is home for all three and it is where the plans of becoming a bobsledding team for Team Nigeria began. Only three years ago, Adigun, the captain and founder of the trio, convinced runners Onzwumere and Omeoga to join her new team as brakemen for the sport, while she would be the driver. Brakemen in bobsledding are the athletes pushing the sled in the race who also yank the sled’s brakes when at the finish line.
Now the question was: How were they going to be a bobsled team without icy tracks and snow? With innovative minds and creative construction, Adigun, Onwumere, and Omeoga trained and learned push starts with a wooden sled built by Adigun. By using scrap materials from hardware stores and the help of googling images, the sled Maeflower was created.
With the set plan of becoming the first bobsled team to represent Africa at the Olympics, they still had a long way to go towards bringing this goal to fruition. “To pull off their own Olympic qualification and crack a field that is dominated by Europeans, they ha[d] to complete five races on three different tracks,” noted Sam Borden from ESPN.
In addition to being extremely difficult, the sport is also very costly with the equipment, training, traveling, and coaching. “We started from zero,” Akuoma says. While still learning how to bobsled, the athletes had to raise money to make their goal possible. Friends, family, and the internet were their go-to sources and, fortunately, Under Armour decided to sponsor and document the journey of the three, creating a new documentary series called “Ice Blazers.”
As the date of the Olympics approaches, the team traveled to Nigeria as a homecoming, promoting the winter sport and serving as a source of inspiration for other Nigerians who wish to train for cold-weather sports even when living in a warm environment.
With the hopes of representing their motherland in the most positive way, all three have the main goal of setting an example for Nigerians and for all women in the sport. History will be made on February 9th, 2018 as they walk into the brightly lit stadium in Pyeongchang and compete in the Winter Olympics on February 20th and 21st as the First African Bobsled Team.
<Aaron Kim Hacienda Heights 10th Grade