HOUSTON – In the nearly 100-year history of the Winter Olympic Games, Nigeria has never been represented, in any sport.
When Nigerian-American, and Houstonian, Seun Adigun realized that fact, she was a brakeman on the U.S. Women’s bobsled team.
“I felt a responsibility to do something,” Adigun said. “I knew bobsledding was trying to grow, and needed more women’s teams.”
Born in Chicago, Adigun was always very athletic. She once dreamed of becoming the first woman to play in the NBA (yes, the NBA).
After high school, Adigun felt drawn to Houston, especially the University of Houston.
“I wanted to leave to go somewhere warm,” Adigun said. “And I felt like this was the culture and the environment — and the university, the athletic strength and academic strengths that I really wanted, and needed.”
The greater Houston area is home to more Nigerian-Americans than any other metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American Community Survey.
That includes Nigerian-Americans Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, who also joined the University of Houston track and field team.
Adigun recruited both in 2016 to join the historic Nigerian bobsled team. Qualifying for the games was a long shot, to put it mildly.
“I was trying to do my research,” Onmuwere said, smiling. “Because I didn’t know what bobsledding was.”
“It’s crazy because it has gone by so fast,” Omeoga said.
The team practiced together for the first time in October 2016, pushing around a wooden cart inside the University of Houston athletic center.
The Olympic dream got a big boost in November 2016 after the team’s story and GoFundMe account went viral. They competed together for the first time in January 2017.
Then came the sponsors, including Under Armour, Beats and Visa.
“That, in itself, is just like, WOAH,” Adigun said, with a huge smile. “Everyone’s so excited, and it just makes me really happy, you know, that they’re so supportive.”
The Nigerian bobsled team has now qualified for the Winter Games. When KPRC met the team, they were pushing an upgraded version of their wooden cart around the UH Athletic Center.
They call it the “Maeflower,” with both the Pilgrims in mind and Adigun’s late sister “Mae Mae.”
Next stop, Nigeria, where the team members are already superstars. And then, Pyeongchang, and Olympic history.