In 2016, Seun Adigun launched a GoFundMe page to help finance an outlandish Olympic pursuit: Start a women’s bobsled team in Nigeria, a country with a sub-Saharan climate and to become the first African nation to compete at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
In a story that is similar to everyone’s favorite feel-good film Cool Runnings, Adigun’s dream became a reality. After the death of her stepsister in a car accident in 2009 (her nickname was Mae Mae), Adigun handcrafted a wooden training sled nicknamed the Maeflower. Adigun depleted her life savings on her pursuit and she received help from teammates Akuoma Omeoga, 25, and Ngozi Onwumere, 26, who are pushers on the Nigerian bobsled team. They took time of their white-collar jobs to slide around icy curves at 80mph.
When she pitched Nigerian sport officials her idea they were bewildered, “You don’t even have to be in Nigeria to be confused as to why three Nigerians who live in Texas are competing in the sport of bobsled,” she says.
What started of a dream is now a spectacle that is worth a Hollywood treatment, Adigun and her sled have qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics in the two-person event (the only one for women) in PyeongChang. Along her journey she has managed to acquire Under Armour and Visa as sponsors. All members on the bobsled team are former top-flight college sprinters with dual Nigerian-American citizenship. Adigun went to Houston and ran the 100 meter hurdles at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
When she recruited Omeoga and Onwumere, they were skeptical to say the least:
“I guess I’m a sporadic thinker, or I make rash decisions, but I was like, ‘yeah, sure,’” says Omeoga. “Afterwards, I was like, ‘I need to call somebody else and get a second, third, or fourth opinion.”
“Once she explained that this was for a continent,” says Onwumere, “I was like, ‘yeah, it would be absurd not to do it.”
The Nigerian women train in Houston but they visited Nigeria to promote their sport, for which they received a rockstar welcome, eeding security guards to protect the from mobs of fans. “To bring us in with such open arms and accept what we’re doing as almost heroic,” says Adigun, “it was just beautiful to get that vibe.”
Adigun hopes her story will inspire other Africans to branch out and try more winter sports. There is no reason why people should feel like there’s only one lane they need to stay in,” she says. “Diversity explains to people that there are no limits in this life.”
Watch the video below to see Adigun’s journey:7