Nigerian women’s bobsleigh team admit they’re ‘terrified’ as they make history, become Winter Olympic’s unlikeliest stars

By AFP | Source, The Daily Mail

As they prepare to make Olympic history in Pyeongchang, Nigeria’s women’s bobsleigh team admit they battle their demons every time they climb into the sled.

Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere are being billed as ‘Cool Runnings’ reloaded in the West African country’s first Winter Games appearance.

The team knelt in prayer before hurtling down the track at breakneck speeds they know could kill them – and admit the sport used to scare them.

Achievements: The bobsleigh team,  pictured during a training session, were formed in September 2016 with the goal to qualify for this year's Winter Olympics

Mirror selfie: The three members of the bobsleigh team strike a pose for the camera

‘The first time I got in a sled it was honestly terrifying,’ driver Ms Adigun told AFP in an interview after training.

‘The only thing that saved my peace of mind was that I used to be a gamer, so initially I just treated it like a video game,’ added the 31-year-old, who is based in Texas, U.S. and represented Nigeria as a hurdler at the 2012 London Olympics.

‘That kind of helps dampen the fear because when you get in a sled you really don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.

‘We also pray! If there’s a ritual that we do that’s what it is.’

Thirty years after the Jamaican men’s bobsled team took the sports world by storm at the 1988 Calgary Olympics – immortalised in the hit Hollywood movie ‘Cool Runnings’ – Nigeria’s women are poised to become Pyeongchang’s unlikeliest stars.

Ready to rumble: Team leader and driver Ms Adigun take a turn during the first unofficial bobsleigh women training session at the Olympic Sliding Centre on Wednesday

Incredible: Simidele Adeagbo of Nigeria in action during Women's Skeleton training at the Olympic Sliding Centre during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games

Sleigh girls, sleigh: This photograph, posted on Instagram by skeleton competitor Simidele Adeagbo, show the NIgerian athletes arriving in South Korea

But it still takes nerves of steel to launch yourself down an icy mountain in an oversized tin can at 93mph.

‘Of course you have to think about the dangers,’ said Ms Adigun, who was the one who invited her team mates to compete in the two-man bobsleigh in September 2016.

‘You have to accept it and embrace it before you can actually apply what you need to protect yourself.

‘It’s a ripping run of speed and being jolted around and sucked down into the bottom of the sled, whether it’s head first or bum first – you roll with the punches,’ she chuckled.

‘It’s very similar to being thrown down a hill in a trash can — you just don’t really know where you’ll end up sometimes.’

Akuoma Omeoga, from left, Simidele Adeagbo, Ngozi Onwumere and Seun Adigun of the Nigerian Olympic Team pose for photographs on Tuesday

On our way: The Nigerian bobsleigh and skeleton team pose for a photo with the flight crew during their journey to South Korea

From Texas to Korea: Seun Adigun, 31, takes a selfie during a pre-Olympics training session

Feeling the cold: The three team members, who all grew up in the United States, are seen laughing during a training session

Pride: The bobsleigh team, right, pose up a storm with Ms Adeagbo, who is competing in skeleton for Nigeria

The daredevil ladies, who will fly Nigeria’s flag with Simidele Adeagbo in the women’s skeleton, all grew up in the United States with a strong sense of pride in their African roots.

Their steep learning curve began by learning push starts at home in Houston in a wooden sled cobbled together by Seun using scrap materials from a hardware store.

The Nigerians booked their Olympic spot last November after Seun broke three helmets in qualifying, but with their long-awaited debut just days away Seun revealed they have yet to attempt a start at full pelt.

‘We honestly have never actually sprinted behind the sled yet,’ she said with a grin.

‘We actually have just done maybe 70 percent hits because everything we have being doing to this point has been survival!’

The real deal: The Jamaican team push off at the start of the second run of the Olympic four-man bobsleigh event 27 February 1988 at the Canada Olympic Park in Calgary

The Hollywood version: Malik Yoba, Leon Robinson, Doug E Doug and Rawle D Lewis in the 1993 hit movie Cool Runnings 

In it to win it: The four Nigerian athletes attend a welcoming ceremony for the team in the Olympic Village in Pyeongchang

Fans: The team laughs as they react to some of the support they have received on social media

The Nigerian women take no issue with inevitable comparisons to the trail-blazing Jamaicans.

‘We feel honoured to say the least,’ said Akuoma.

‘Crazily enough I actually met the driver of the of the first Jamaican bobsled team (Dudley Stokes) today. I thought ‘Oh my gosh, we’re being compared to you!’ So it’s definitely been very cool.’

Seun added: ‘It’s so humbling. They set the tone and created a path where 30 years later people still consider them as legends.’

She also insists she has no regrets about her hair-raising choice of career, regardless of what happens in Pyeongchang.

‘Everyone thought I was crazy,’ she said of her decision to take up the sport.

‘They were like ‘wait a minute – bobsled, like the winter sport? You live in Texas where it’s hot, your family and you are from Nigeria. But you’re going to be playing in snow?’

‘We’re just going to give everything we’ve got and wherever the chips fall we’re going to roll with it. We’re doing this for Nigeria, so hell yeah!’

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