The Olympic bobsledding world just got a little bigger. We wrote in March about the quest of three Nigerian women to become the first African bobsled team to ever compete at that level (no small task, as Nigeria has never been represented at the Winter Olympics in any sport, and only 54 countries have ever competed in bobsled at the Olympics).
At that point, they had completed two of the required five trial events, but were looking for funding to continue their training. Well, they got some help, first from supporters on GoFundMe and then later from Visa, which signed them this week. And now, they’ve officially qualified for the 2018 PyeongChang Games after completing their fifth qualifying race in Calgary. Here’s video of that from the team’s Instagram:
🇳🇬😆🙌🏾ECSTATIC to say the LEAST. We are so proud of our Women’s Bobsled Team being eligible to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games! 🏆🏅👏🏾Congratulations🎉 @seun_msamazing @akuomaomeoga @ngozi.onwumere You Ladies showed nothing but pure heart and dedication. To see a mere dream come to reality is a true blessing. God bless you all and thank you for representing Nigeria so well! 🇳🇬❤️ #bsfnigeria #NigeriaBobsled #underarmour @underarmour #teamua #wewill #nigeria #nigerianathletes
Visa’s release on signing the team this week has some pretty cool details on their story:
Without access to proper training equipment or valuable ice time to perfect their skills, the members of the Nigerian Women’s Bobsleigh Team started their journey on the snow-less grounds of Houston, Texas, in a wooden sled they nicknamed “The Maeflower”. Once the team set their sights on the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, they established a crowdfunding website hoping to raise the much-needed funds to get to PyeongChang. Upon discovering the page, Visa was inspired by their story and determination to carve out a place in history, and pledged to help solidify the team’s trip to the Olympic Winter Games.
“When we first heard their story, we recognised the collective spirit of these athletes as a perfect fit for Team Visa,” said Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa. “By joining Team Visa, we hope to provide this group of determined athletes with a global stage to tell their story and inspire athletes all over the world to follow their dreams and never give up.”
The team is made up of driver Seun Adigun, who represented Nigeria in the 2012 Summer Olympics in the 100-meter hurdles, won three Nigerian titles in that event, and also competed for the University of Houston, plus brakewomen Ngozi Onwumere (a former competitive sprinter who won silver in the 200 meters and gold in the 4x100m relay in the 2015 African Games) and Akuoma Omeoga (also a former competitive sprinter who competed for the University of Minnesota). Their story has’already won plenty of fans, and it’s very cool to see their quest to qualify for the Olympics pay off. They’ve already expanded the world of bobsleigh and of the Winter Olympics, and there may be more success ahead for them.