Breaking Barriers: Nigeria’s Olympic Making Female Bobsled team are Africa’s first4 minute read

At one point in my life I wanted to play in the WNBA however seeing as I peaked in high school, I put that dream on the top shelf of my dream cabinet. But I have retrieved that dream once again! Or, at least that’s how I felt after my conversation with Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, and Ngozi Onwumere, the ladies who are hoping to be the first ever African Bobsled team, representing Nigeria in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

On what started off as a pretty ordinary Saturday afternoon, I got the chance to pick their brains on the idea of innovation and how entering a new athletic field, particularly, one that no one would associate Nigeria with, can be directed to so many areas of life. I must confess, as a fellow Nigerian, I was fangirling HARD. I went into the conversation worried that I would blow my calm and collected “interviewer” cover, but they were so down to earth that I felt like I was chatting with friends.

It became apparent very early in our conversation that the ladies are strong believers in living beyond the norm – “Nigerians are physically everywhere, in all climates and locations, so why not get Nigeria involved in everything?”, Seun said. While going into an unknown territory can be scary, it seems to be a driving factor for the team; as building a team and setting the tone for future Nigerian teams is a win in itself!

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Hailing from Nigeria where a lot of times success means being a Lawyer, or Doctor, or Engineer; I was interested in whether they felt any pressure representing the continent in a sport so uncommon to many Africans and how they stay on course during moments of fear or doubt. The amount of love and support the ladies receive from their families in helping them stay driven shouldn’t be taken lightly, as many Nigerians place a high value on the opinions of their parents – they talked about how their parents often called to see how practice was going, how they shared their videos all over Facebook, and how interesting it was having to explain bobsledding to parents who knew nothing about it.

As we chatted some more about how being the face of Nigeria and Africa could be perceived as a huge and almost unbearable weight, I got to learn that, beyond the support from family and friends in such new territory, the ladies have also built their courage on faith – as Seun stated “riding on faith” has helped take a lot of the pressure off their shoulders.

A formula the team shared on how they stay aware but not overwhelmed by the fact that they are pioneers in taking Africa into this sport is this: “life is all about execution and result”. As long as you devise a strong plan of execution, stay focused and patient through the process, people will respect the result.  Since that conversation, I’ve really thought about how applicable that formula is to the risk required in trying anything new. They absolutely hit the nail on the head, no one can deny you the respect that comes from a well-executed plan. As Ukuoma excellently stated – “I make people meet me at my expectations of success than trying to meet their expectations because there are way too many of them and only one of me.”

The theme that rang clear throughout the conversation with the ladies was the idea of being limitless – “why not?”, “why not me?”, “why not try?” As Ngozi mentioned during our conversation, she used to be afraid of rollercoasters so going into a sport like bobsledding seems crazy but she has learned that being fearless has been so vital throughout the process. So often we stop ourselves from being innovative because we fear what’s behind door #1, but as the ladies so articulately stated, just open the door and find out! In a nutshell, Ngozi noted, “you are enough!”. Why sit on the sidelines waiting for someone to look up to when you can be that person for others?

I’m rooting for you ladies! We are all rooting for you! #NaijaGirlsRock

**Since this interview took place, the team has qualified for the Olympics. Of Africa is thrilled and proud to see dreams come true!

 

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Yoyo is a proud Nigerian living in Vancouver. She loves meeting new people and can be caught either playing somewhat good basketball, dancing (even if the music is sometimes in her head) or being completely wrong in trivia questions but with confidence.

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