2018 Winter Olympics will have the greatest African representation ever. But it’s the Nigerian women who will compete in the bobsleigh and skeleton event who are among the most remarkable.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Friday and while South Africa has sent a lone competitor – alpine skier Connor Wilson – the Games will have a broad African representation.
In fact, the Games will feature the most African countries at a Winter Olympics.
Eight countries from the continent – Kenya, Morocco, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, Togo, Eritrea, and Nigeria – will compete at this year’s event with 13 athletes (a record since 1994) all vying to become the first African to win a medal.
It is a monumental effort considering the challenges the athletes face to compete.
Beyond the usual – maladministration, lack of funding and you know, the weather – there’s the added complexity that in many countries, the federations that govern winter sports simply do not exist.
When Senegal’s Lamine Guèye became the first black African athlete to compete in the games back in 1984, he had to ask for the help from the International Ski Federation to set up the sport’s federation.
That has been a recurring theme and a similar story for the women who are likely to be the stars of this year’s African show.
US-based trio Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere will make up Nigeria’s bobsleigh team at the Games, while Simidele Adeagbo will compete in the women’s skeleton.It’s the first time the country will take part in the competition, and added to their challenge of actually getting into a bobsleigh, they also had to set up the federation from scratch.
It will be a historic moment when the women debut, but elite-level competition isn’t foreign to all of them.
Onwumere is an All-Africa Games medallist, having won silver in the 200m sprint in Brazzaville 2015 and gold in the 4x100m relay.
But the two sports are worlds apart and the journey to get here has been nothing short of remarkable.