University of Houston alums to make Olympic Winter Games history

Two University of Houston alums are making history as members of the first ever bobsled team to represent a nation from the African continent in the Olympic Winter Games.

Seun Adigun and Ngozi Onwumere are training daily at University of Houston as they prepare to compete on the Nigerian bobsled team in the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games in February 2018.

Up until this point, an African nation has never been represented by a bobsled team in the Olympic Winter Games.

The track and field history of Adigun and Onwumere as part of the University of Houston Cougars team has helped prepare them for Olympic bobsledding.

“Track and field segues really awesome into the sport of bobsled,” said Adigun. “You use the power. You use the strength. You use the force distribution to transfer into the sled in the beginning when you push.”

Adigun specialized in the 100 meter hurdles during her college athletic career. Onwumere did the long jump, relays and sprints.

“It hasn’t been really different from track and field,” said Onwumere. “We all have track and field backgrounds, so it’s just been really loading up and conditioning, getting really fast, getting really strong, putting on some weight.”

The athletes, including their third teammate Akuoma Omeoga out of Minnesota, are Nigerian-U.S. dual citizens.

“Both my parents are born and raised Nigerian,” said Adigun.

The team’s last visit to Nigeria was in earlier 2017.

“Everyone in Nigeria is pretty stoked about the idea of having something,” said Adigun. “They may not even understand exactly what it is, but the ones that do are completely invested, and the ones that don’t are just as equally invested.”

Since Houston’s climate isn’t quite appropriate for Olympic Winter Games preparation, the team supplements its training with trips to Olympic bobsled training sites every month.

“Like most everyone in the sport, we all go to the bobsled-specific venues,” said Adigun. “There are four of them in North America, two in the United States. One’s in Lake Placid, New York. One’s in Park City, Utah.”

Olympic bobsledders reach speeds of about 90 mph on an ice track that’s less than a mile long.

“We get the sled to its optimal speed, we jump in, kind of hide and then pull the brakes at the end,” said Onwumere of her role as a brakewoman.

“We are literally trying to get as strong and as fast as we can, leading up to the games,” said Adigun who is the team’s driver.

The women say they’re still wrapping their minds around the fact that they’re making history on behalf of the continent of Africa.

“It’s very hard to explain the feeling that comes over me when you really just think about the nature by which this qualification represents an entire continent,” said Adigun. “You know, it’s huge, and I don’t think, I haven’t quite swallowed that entire pill yet.”

Adigun is the one who came up with the idea of transitioning from track and field to bobsledding and brought the other two women onto her team. She’s been bobsledding for around three years. Before that she represented Nigeria in the 2012 Olympics, competing in the women’s 100 meter hurdles. She also coached track for the University of Houston.