From 0 to 90 Real Quick: First African Bobsled Team Inspires

nigerian bobsled

Three badass women are in the spotlight after qualifying for the Olympics in bobsledding. They hail from Nigeria, a place with average temperatures ranging from a sweltering 100° F to a moderate 54° F.  And that is not the only cool thing about them.

Seun Adigun ran for Nigeria in the 2012 Summer Olympics, but this winter, she will get a change of pace. Adigun is the driver of the Nigerian bobsled team, literally and figuratively, as it was her idea to get the whole outfit together in the first place.

Her two Nigerian team members are fellow sprinters based in the U.S., Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga. This happened just last year, and now these three women have qualified for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea. Makes you wonder what you have accomplished in the past couple years, right? Respect.

Small challenge: bobsledding needs snow, which as we know does not occur until temps hit 32° F or lower. Remember 54° F from before? Nothing close to 32° F. And funds for the team were not plentiful in the least. So, Adigun had to get a little creative. She took a page from the men’s Jamaican team’s playbook and handcrafted a wooden sled to use in the meantime.

She completed the sled in a few days (no procrastination there) and they started practicing. According to People Magazine, the only difference Onwumere sees between running track and bobsledding is how labor intensive the latter is.

Something that made the training process easier for Omwumere, Adigun and Omeoga created a GoFundMe crowdsourcing campaign raising $75,000 for the team to use for expenses that go along with qualifying for the Olympics.

The three women have picked up sponsors from Visa and Under Armour, as well as the hearts of people around the world at a fast rate, like the 90 mph that is the average speed of an Olympic bobsled.

The country of Nigeria has never had any Winter Olympians, and the entire continent of Africa has never sent a bobsled team to the Olympics. Adigun, Omwumere and Omeoga will be the first.

Although what seems to be the focus of the team is bringing more winter sports to Nigeria, what the team is also doing is bringing more sports to women.

Women appear on less than 5 percent of Sports Illustrated’s covers. And that is when you take the annual swimsuit edition out, because, well, that does not really count for these purposes.

In the Olympics specifically, women athletes only made up 40.3 percent of participants in the 2014 Winter Games. Now, that percentage continues to close in on 50, but not quite yet. On the International Olympic Committee Executive Board, 26.7 percent of members were female, and on the National Olympic Committee Executive Board, 19.9 percent of members were female in 2015.

Simply with their position in the spotlight, these three Nigerian women will propel women’s sports further into the international discussion of women in sports, as well as African countries in winter sports.

This is important. Women deserve a voice in all circles, especially in one that promotes a healthy body, spirit and passion.