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Winter Olympian training in Charlotte amid pandemic aims to return for Beijing Olympic games in 2022

Simidele Adeagbo is the first Nigerian Winter Olympian, and the first African and Black woman to compete in Olympic skeleton.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An Olympian training in Charlotte amid the COVID-19 pandemic is aiming to break down barriers and inspire future generations by making it back to the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022.

Simidele Adeagbo, who represented Nigeria in the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018, hopes to compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

In 2018, Adeagbo became Nigeria's first Olympian competing in the winter games. She was also the first African and Black woman to compete in Olympic skeleton, hurling herself headfirst down a track of ice at roughly 90 miles an hour.

"Nigeria had never been represented at the Winter Olympics. So that was a huge moment,” said Adeagbo, “That time that I did my first run and just knew that as I was taking those steps on the ice I was breaking barriers."

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Adeagbo’s Olympic dream started far from the ice as a track and field athlete for the University of Kentucky in the triple jump. She said she even tried out twice for the Summer Olympics, the last time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  

"When that didn't work out, I was very disappointed,” she said. “You know, you work your whole life for something, and you don't make it, it hurts a lot."

Ten years later, Adeagbo said she heard Nigeria was trying to form a women’s bobsled team. She tried out for the team and didn’t make it. Through that experience, she was introduced to skeleton.

Skeleton allowed Adeagbo to utilize some of her track and field skills, such as power, strength, and speed. She said she learned the new sport roughly 100 days before the last Winter Olympics.

“I was an Olympian and to me, the step that I made, the door that I opened was more than a medal,” she said. “It, to me, was really just something that will be forever in history.”

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Credit: AP
Simidele Adeagbo of Nigeria starts her third run during the women's skeleton competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Adeagbo has spent the last three and a half years since Pyeongchang training for the next Winter Olympics. She trains in: skeleton, a solo racing competition where an athlete plummets head-first down a steep grade riding a sled, and monobob, a solo competition on a bobsled.

"Going back is really about putting it all out there, giving it my best, and representing my country the best that I can,” she said.

Adeagbo trains an average of 6 to 8 hours. During the pandemic, she has been utilizing parks, fields, and tracks around Charlotte for her workouts. In order to train on ice, she has to fly to facilities across the country and around the world. She said all of her equipment and efforts are primarily self-funded.

To help Adeagbo return to the Olympics, she set up a GoFundMe to help offset the costs of a sled, sled runners and tools, sled transportation, a personal coach for training and competition, competition travel expenses, and athlete insurance. Her goal is to raise $135,000 by Sept. 12, which is the start of the race season.

"I'd love your help and your support,” said Adeagbo. “I'm super excited about what this could mean, opening the door and bringing more athletes in that look like myself and can bring a greater representation of humanity to the Winter Olympics."

Credit: AP
Simidele Adeagbo of the Nigerian Olympic Team snaps a photo before participating in a welcome ceremony inside the Pyeongchang Olympic Village prior to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Beyond the Olympics, Adeagbo sees her dream as something bigger than herself.

"Really, the end goal for me is how does this inspire the next generation of dreamers, particularly young women, and girls," she said.

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Contact Kendall Morris at kmorris2@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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