Simidele Adeagbo joins inaugural Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Program
Lois Elman | 7/26/2018, 2:58 p.m.
It has been less than six months since Simidele Adeagbo made history as the first athlete from Nigeria to compete at the Olympic Winter Games in the sport of skeleton, but she is already part of history once again. After a thrilling Olympic experience, Adeagbo is now one of 200 individuals chosen for the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Program. Last week, they gathered in Johannesburg for five days to begin the one-year leadership development and civic engagement program.
Adeagbo, a marketing brand manager for Nike based in Johannesburg, South Africa, is intent to utilize the incredible platform her Olympic experience provided to make positive change in the world.
“Getting to the Olympics and that journey had so much significance in terms of what it meant to break barriers and do something that didn’t seem possible, and I didn’t want it to stop at the Olympics,” said Adeagbo. “I thought this would be a great way to explore how to continue to do that work of driving positive change in my community, my country and, of course, the continent.”
She added, “I did not want to lose that mindset of being a trailblazer. That was a powerful experience in my life and I want to live my life that way going forward.”
Adeagbo said the Leaders: Africa Program gathering was incredible, describing it as the “Olympics of intellect.” Bright minds from all over Africa came together with a conviction to create positive change. There were amazing speakers over the five days, including former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female head of state in Africa.
“It was a great platform to connect, to learn and really start shaping the possibilities around what my contribution can be,” said Adeagbo. She recently rolled out a signature leadership and sports master class for girls in Nigeria at which she shared leadership and sports knowledge with the 100 girls in attendance and spoke about how they can develop tangible skills to make them leaders in their communities.
Going forward, Adeagbo will work to expand these master classes throughout Africa by partnering with people and companies driving innovative solutions.
Despite balancing her career with the Leaders program and living quite a distance from ice tracks, Adeagbo will continue in skeleton—combining innovative off-ice training with travel to the U.S. and Canada.
“The skeleton journey was never part of my life plan,” said Adeagbo, an All-American in the triple jump at the University of Kentucky. “What it did for me was reignite that elite athlete within me…I want to continue to see what my potential can be in the sport of skeleton.”