Sports For All News: Nigeria’s first Winter Olympian is using her free time to help the next generation and motivate African youngsters to achieve their full potential. “There is no expiration date to your dreams!” she says in an interview with Olympics.com about the “Athletes for Good” campaign and her long-term goals, which include the 2026 Games.
When Simidele Adeagbo qualified for the Winter Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018, it took her ten years to realise her dream of being an Olympian. As Africa’s first skeleton competitor, she created history.
The Nigerian attempted to qualify for the Olympics for the very first time in 2008, as a long jumper, at Beijing.
In 2017, she transitioned from sand to ice ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, and after picking up the monobob, she gets close to competing in Beijing 2022.
“The thing that I also learned is that your dream might not actually look like the way you originally envisioned it,” she told Olympics.com.
“And so, you have to be open to reimagining different ways to get to the same goal.”
Although Adeagbo’s quest for a second Olympic appearance did not succeed, her “transformational” Olympic adventure has inspired her to embark on a new mission: to provide future generations in Africa with the opportunity to achieve their ambitions on and off the ice.
When she won the monobob race at Winterberg, Germany on January 17, 2022, the 40-year-old became the first African to win an ISBF World Cup race. This year’s “Athletes for Good” donations will go to 16 athletes and their charity.
“This was really the root of my journey. When I think back to when I made the decision to start doing the sport of skeleton, it was really rooted in a deeper purpose,” Adeagbo revealed to motivate the kids.
“I’m very passionate about how I can help inspire the next generation, particularly of young girls, and help give them just the incredible gift that is the power of sport and how I help build their leadership skills through that.”
Q: How has your Olympic journey been?
Simidele Adeagbo (SA): I would call it transformational. In 2018, I made history. That was awesome in the sport that I knew very little about. I did that in a very short period and a very unconventional way, taking on skeleton and qualifying for the Olympic Games in about a 100-day period.
And so really getting for PyeongChang and being able to become the first African woman to compete in skeleton at the Olympics was amazing.
When I started the journey, I knew very little about skeleton and bobsled. To see where I’ve come from to now, where I’m at, and recently came off a huge win where I became the first African athlete to win an international bobsled race.
I can only call it transformational to see how I’ve developed, how I’ve grown, and how I’ve hoped to have moved the sport forward for myself, for Nigeria, for the continent of Africa.
Q: What are some of the biggest learnings you took away from your historic qualification for PyeongChang and even coming so close to qualifying for Beijing 2022?
SA: I’ve learned that access matters. These are sports that are traditionally not accessible to populations from the continent of Africa and other places in the world where training facilities aren’t common, the sport is very unknown there.
What I hope to have shown is that given access, the possibilities are limitless. We just have to get to the starting line. And if we’re able to do that, then so much can happen from there. But it takes action.
These things don’t happen by accident. You don’t make history by accident. I’ve personally learned that I can do the things that I aspire to do. It just takes one step. And then from there you take the next step and the next step.
It’s never going to be easy, but it’s possible. As a person, I’ve just grown in just being able to take those steps and just take the steps to break barriers, which can be very scary. But in doing that, you build strength through it.
Q: What do you think people can learn about your journey?
SA: Well, there’s no expiration date for your dreams. Back in 2018, it did happen kind of in an unconventional 100-day period. It really was 10 years in the making because those who know my story might know that I come from a track and field background and my original Olympic dream was to be a summer Olympian.
I never in a million years thought that I’d be a winter Olympian because track and field was my sport.
I did triple jump, and that was the path that I was on, and I was aspiring to make it to the Olympic Games that way.
“I wanted to be an Olympian. But instead of the sunshine and the sand that I originally envisioned, I became an Olympian where there was snow and ice and I had frostbite, but it was still beautiful, nonetheless.” – Simidele Adeagbo
Simidele: “I want the youth to feel empowered to dream without limits”