A Mesquite Woman Wants to Represent Nigeria in the Winter Olympics
Yes, it’s like a sequel to ’Cool Runnings’: A North Texan of West African parentage is going bobsledding in PyeongChang.
Growing up in Mesquite, Ngozi Onwumere didn’t have much of a chance to participate in winter sports. And yet, improbably, the 25-year-old University of Houston graduate and her friends Seun Adigun and Akuoma Omeoga recently qualified to represent Nigeria in the bobsledding competition in this February’s Winter Olympics. It’s an achievement that has brought the three American-born children of Nigerian immigrants a great deal of attention from the media—as well as plenty of joking references to the 1993 movie Cool Runnings. Sometime this month the Nigeria Olympic Committee will officially inform them whether they’ll actually get to compete. If they do, they’ll be the first team to represent Nigeria in any Winter Olympics.
Doyin Oyeniyi: Before you got involved in bobsledding, you were involved in other kinds of athletics, right?
DO: You didn’t get involved in bobsledding until 2016, when you were recruited by Seun Adigun [a track coach at the University of Houston who represented Nigeria in the 100-meter hurdle at the 2012 Summer Olympics and founded the country’s bobsled team two years ago]. What did she say to persuade you?
NO: When I got recruited [for track] out of high school, she was the first coach I met when I went to campus for my visit. My parents were like, “Oh, she’s a Nigerian and a woman and a coach. She can watch over you.” They didn’t want me to go to Houston for school, so it was reassuring for them to meet her. And we just maintained that relationship throughout my time at the university.
DO: All of this makes me think of the movie Cool Runnings, about the Jamaican bobsled team.
NO: We’re actually very close to them. It’s cool to see that that team—which started thirty years ago—is still alive and well. We hope to be the exact same way.