The number of Nigeria’s representatives at this year’s Winter Olympics has increased as Simidele Adeagbo officially qualifies to compete in the sport of Women’s Skeleton.
Simidele will be the first Nigerian and African female athlete to compete in the Olympics in the sport. On an even larger scale, Simidele will also be the first Black female athlete to compete in the Skeleton in the Winter Olympics. Her qualification came after she completed 5 required races.
Her journey into Skeleton started when she heard about the history-breaking Nigerian bobsled team, so, she decided to go for a trial in August and was successful.
According to her website, Simidele made history in her 5th and 6th races, becoming the first ever African Skeleton athlete to place in the top 3 and be represented on the podium in international competition.
Simidele’s journey to a participation at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea commenced in December 2016, when she first heard of the Nigerian women’s bobsled team.
She said: “I read an article about how the women had this audacious goal of becoming Africa’s first-ever bobsled team to go to the Winter Olympics. I was super inspired, and instantly thought, I wonder if I could be a part of that? So, when I saw that, I was thinking, maybe they need a fourth person and maybe that fourth person could be me because there’s a history of track and field athletes going into bobsled.”
Adeagbo sent a message to the bobsled team inquiring if she could be a fourth member. The team had just three women and from what she knew, bobsled is a four-person sport. The women however replied, informing her that bobsled is a four-person sport for men, but a two-person sport for women. They informed her their team was complete.
Several months later, there was a potential window of opportunity for participation at the winter Olympics. In July 2017, Adeagbo saw an Instagram post announcing trials by the Nigerian Bobsled and Skeleton Federation in Houston, Texas. She then travelled to Houston, arriving in the morning of tryouts and competed in the trials that evening.
A couple weeks later she got a call from the Federation inviting her to come to a camp in Canada to see if she could live up to the potential she showed at the trials. Despite not knowing much about the sports, Adeagbo did so well at those tryouts, leveraging on everything she already mastered back in her track and field days: speed (with a 45-meter sprint), power (through a shot-put throw) and explosiveness (via a standing long jump). The first time she ever touched a skeleton sled was on September 12, 2017.
Nigeria’s bobsled team comprising of Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, and Ngozi Onwumere also made history when they qualified for the Winter Olympics holding in PyeongChang, South Korea.