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Africa’s first woman skeleton Olympian: ‘I am prepared’

Having taken home bronze at her last two qualifying races in Lake Placid, New York, Simidele Adeagbo will be the first African woman skeleton racer ever to participate in the Winter Olympics — which will be taking place in South Korea this February.

“I am elated to have made history as the first African skeleton athlete — male or female — to place top three in an international competition,” she said. “It was awesome to see the Nigerian flag raised during the medal ceremony. I was beaming with pride and this gave so much confidence as I prepare for the Olympics.”

Adeagbo’s historic third-place finishes saw her completing her races in just 58.11 seconds and 59.88 seconds respectively.

She came up against American teammates Kristen Hurley and Kelly Curtis, who took gold and silver respectively in the second race. In that final qualifying race, on January 12, a victorious Hurley topped her Nigerian counterpart by just 0.34 seconds.

READ MORE: Nigerian athlete slides into history

The Toronto-born athlete, who only started skeleton racing in 2017, said that she is feeling good about her chances at PyeongChang: “I’ve worked really hard throughout the season and I am prepared. All I need to do is stay relaxed, have fun and do my best. Everything else will take care of itself.”

The hair-raising sport involves launching oneself face down on the frozen skeleton racetrack at speeds of sometimes more than 130km/h — requiring both physical and mental toughness.

Following her qualifying races, Adeagbo told the Mail & Guardian that she has become more relaxed and comfortable with the sled, seeing progress in her ability to steer down the icy track. She also noted that she’s started utilising her speed more effectively. The track and field record holder said that she was able to really unleash this element of her athleticism — giving her an edge over her competition.

As she gets ready to take on the competition this February, she said that her training routine won’t change much. She typically spends two to three hours training in the gym: first  on the track — doing sprint workouts in short bursts of 30m to 40m — and then powerlifting and jump training in the weight room.

Apart from the little time she gets on the ice, the rest is all about mental preparation. “I’m studying the track closely and visualising myself on the track as much as possible,” Adeagbo said. “By the time I physically get to PyeongChang, I would have already visualised myself having lots of great runs on the track.”

There will be no rest for Adeagbo as she continues her journey to the Olympics. “I’m going full steam ahead until the competition,” she said.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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