Fast Tracked

It wasn't so long ago that Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga had never set foot in a bobsled. Now the Nigerian-Americans are on their way to the 2018 Olympics to represent Nigeria -- a first for the country.

Fast Tracked

It wasn't so long ago that Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga had never set foot in a bobsled. Now the Nigerian-Americans are on their way to the 2018 Olympics to represent Nigeria -- a first for the country.

By Sam Borden 01/29/18

For more on this story, watch E:60's "Fast Tracked," a documentary on Nigeria's first bobsled team. The episode airs Sunday, Feb. 18, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN. View the trailer here.

Can you imagine how it feels to jump inside a metal box and shoot down an icy mountain at nearly 100 mph? Yeah, Seun Adigun couldn't, either. And when this whole story began, she had barely even been around snow.

Yet now -- somehow -- Seun and her two (similarly warm-blooded) teammates, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, are headed to South Korea in February, poised to become the most unlikely stars of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

"It's basically like putting someone in a trash can and rolling them down a hill," is how Ngozi described a trip down the track, but you can judge for yourself. That finish, though? Undeniably exquisite.

So come ride along with Team Nigeria, as it goes all the way from "What's a bobsled?" to making history.

"Guys, this is going to happen!"

It is Sept. 14, 2016. Seun (center) welcomes Akuoma (left) and Ngozi (right) into her home in Houston. All three are Nigerian-American; all three grew up in households in the U.S. where African culture was important; and all three have a running background (Seun even coached Ngozi for a bit at the University of Houston). As a hurdler, now-31-year-old Seun represented Nigeria at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

But this meeting isn't about running. It is about the two-man bobsled, a sport Seun had only experimented with and one Ngozi and Akuoma, who are both 24 years old, know very little about.

So, what do they know? They know Seun is proposing a plan in which she'll be the driver and Ngozi and Akuoma will alternate duties as the brakeman. They know no African country has ever participated in bobsled at the Winter Games. And they know this could be the beginning of that changing.

"Today we have decided that we are going to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games," says Seun.

"Maybe this door handle will work."

Icy track, snow-capped mountains, Winter Olympics -- practice should be somewhere cold, right? Not exactly. This grassroots effort starts at home in Houston, where Seun, Ngozi and Akuoma learn push starts with a wooden sled that Seun built by looking at pictures and using scrap materials from a hardware store.

The sled is named the Maeflower, spelled with an 'e' because it's named after Seun's stepsister, who died in a car accident in 2009 and whose nickname was Maemae.

"If we can be 'Cool Runnings' reloaded? That would be amazing."

Thirty years ago, another unlikely bobsled team shocked the Olympic world when the Jamaican men's bobsled team -- yes, the one immortalized in "Cool Runnings" -- made it to the 1988 Olympics. (The Jamaican women's team qualified for the first time this year.)

Seun and her teammates don't mind the comparisons to the original "Cool Runnings" team (particularly since it comes up all the time), but to pull off their own Olympic qualification -- and crack a field that is dominated by Europeans -- they have to complete five races on three different tracks.

It's daunting -- particularly because the team hasn't set foot on ice yet.


"Are we crashed? Are we crashed? Yup. We're crashed."

Jan. 9, 2017. The North American Cup bobsled event in Park City, Utah. Race No. 1.

Everyone is nervous. Akuoma even puts her pants on backward as the team suits up. They were supposed to get four days of training runs, but bad weather limits it to two, and they have no choice but to show up on race day and try.

Their first official run? Some bobbles, but they make it to the bottom.

The second? Well ...

"It's no longer just teammates -- it's like a sister."

Along with being very difficult (and often very painful), bobsled is also very expensive -- think $170,000 or more for equipment, ice time, training, travel and coaching just for the year-plus that Team Nigeria had from its beginning until the Olympics.

"We started from zero," Akuoma says. So in addition to learning how to bobsled, the teammates also had to spend their time begging for money from friends, family, the internet and anyone else they could find. Working to overcome those two challenges, though, led to the three women -- who barely knew each other before this all began -- becoming a family.

"Whistler was ... an experience."

In early November, Team Nigeria arrives in British Columbia with two races completed. If they can finish two here, they'll go to Calgary for two more races knowing they'll have some margin for error since they need only five.

But the track in Whistler is treacherous. And the weather is frigid and foggy. And every team in the field, including Team Nigeria, is crashing. Ngozi injures her hip. Seun breaks three helmets. Nigeria finishes only one race (barely), and suddenly the challenge in Calgary becomes far tougher.

"We had to actually make it down the track or our plans would be ruined."

It's 10 days after the disaster in Whistler, and the situation for Team Nigeria as it unloads in Calgary is simple: finish two runs or fail. The practice runs are smooth enough, and Seun is confident. She believes it is the team's time.

"Impossible is nothing."

The first race, with Akuoma as the brakeman, goes smoothly -- no hiccups, no big bumps. Nigeria is one away.

The second race, with Ngozi in back, starts off roughly -- the track announcer calls out that there is some shaking during the early turns -- but Seun steadies the sled and they shoot across the finish line, shrieking and shouting and crying out with glee.

"I almost forgot to brake, honestly," Ngozi says. Akuoma is at the finish and the three wrap themselves in the Nigerian flag.

They have succeeded. They have made history. And they know this could be the beginning of something special.

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