Nigeria continues to make Olympic history

Lois Elfman | 1/18/2018, 2:10 p.m.
Simidele Adeagbo has had significant achievements in her life as an All-American in track and field at the University of ...

Simidele Adeagbo has had significant achievements in her life as an All-American in track and field at the University of Kentucky and as a Nike executive. This week marks an accomplishment of historic proportions as she earned a spot representing Nigeria at the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in the daring sport of skeleton. Adeagbo joins the three women of the bobsled team as the first-ever Winter Olympic athletes from Nigeria.

A series of races last week in Lake Placid, N.Y., secured Adeagbo’s spot. Not only did she perform well and meet the Olympic qualifying time, but also she placed as high as third. The International Bobsled & Skeleton Federation made it official Sunday.

“For me, it was about the historic nature of the challenge,” said Adeagbo, 36, who retired from track and field in 2008 and returned to intense training in 2017. “I felt that I had the talent to do so and I wanted to serve my country. The opportunity to break barriers in winter sports is really special and will inspire the next generation of African athletes.”

Born in Canada and raised in Nigeria before her family settled in Kentucky when she was in elementary school, Adeagbo cherishes her heritage. Although she always maintained a level of fitness, getting into world-class shape definitely took effort. She has trained for the Olympics while continuing to work as a marketing brand manager for Nike based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“There are no skeleton tracks on the continent of Africa,” said Adeagbo. “When I’m in South Africa, I train on dry land. I go to the gym. I build my speed, power and strength, but I do have to travel to get to ice tracks.”

Nike has been supportive as she’s spent time on the tracks in Canada and the U.S. developing her skills in skeleton, which involves racing down an ice track head-first on a sled.

“I’m really proud of myself and my teammates,” said Adeagbo, who is chronicling her journey on her website, SimiSleighs.com, and on Twitter, @SimiSleighs. “We are smart, vivacious, strong African women unapologetically blazing a trail in sport. Part of this whole process is how we’re able to redefine Africa through the lens of sport. It feels great to be part of it. I’m excited to represent Nigeria in the Olympics.”