Yaaas queens! African women make history at 2018 Winter Olympics

15 February 2018 - 12:37 By Jessica Brodie
Flag bearer Ngozi Onwumere of Nigeria leads the team during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 9 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Flag bearer Ngozi Onwumere of Nigeria leads the team during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 9 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

It is a momentous Winter Olympics for Africa as the largest contingent of African countries in history has dispatched teams to Pyeongchang, South Korea.

A record eight African countries qualified for the games, despite Africa’s geographical disadvantage of being the hottest continent on Earth. In attendance are athletes from Nigeria, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Morocco and Togo.

Without a doubt, the story captivating the games this year is the women’s Nigerian bobsleigh team. With both Jamaica and Nigeria fielding bobsleigh teams, it could be the plot of an all-girl remake of Cool Runnings. These women are among the first Nigerian athletes to take part in the Winter Olympics, and the first African bobsleigh team in history.

Just because you don't know what it means to see snow or to understand temperatures that are equivalent to ice, that doesn't mean you have to shy away from it
Akuoma Omeoga

The team is comprised of driver Seun Adigun and brakewomen Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga. All three are athletics stars who have hung up their studs, but it was Adigun who invited fellow runners Omeoga and Onwumere to compete in the bobsleigh event in September 2016.

In a remarkable show of tenacity, the three trained in Texas on a home-made wooden bobsled in preparation for the games and crowdfunded their way to qualification. Their lack of experience, resources, and appropriate weather conditions has left them undaunted.

“Just because you don't know what it means to see snow or to understand temperatures that are equivalent to ice, that doesn't mean you have to shy away from it," said Adigun in The Telegraph. "That's what Africa is representing — that we can take those risks and still be able to compete with the best in the world."

WATCH | Nigerian team on the start of their Olympic journey

The Nigerian bobsleigh team are not alone in their bid for Olympic glory. Joining them on team Nigeria is Simidele Adeagbo, the country's first skeleton racer, as well as Africa’s female skeleton racer. 

In a similar tale to the Nigerian team, Africa’s first alpine skiers Sabrina Simander from Kenya and Mialitiana Clerc from Madagascar are both preparing to debut. Olympic veteran Mathilde-Amavi Petitjean, a Togolese cross country skier, rounds out a remarkably prolific showing of strong African women at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

• The Nigerian bobsleigh team have official training heats this week, marking the first time they will be on the ice in PyeonChang. The women's bobsled runs four heats on February 20. 


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