Africa's first woman skeleton racer becomes a global inspiration

Simidele Adeagbo became the first woman from the continent to compete in the Winter Olympic sport of skeleton racing. (Simidele Adeagbo/Instagram)

Simidele Adeagbo became the first woman from the continent to compete in the Winter Olympic sport of skeleton racing. (Simidele Adeagbo/Instagram)

The call breaks for a few moments as Simidele Adeagbo takes the time to take a few selfies. She has developed quite a fan base in and around the Winter Olympic’s village in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“People just want to be a part of my story. When they see me in my Nigerian jacket, people from all over want to stop and take pictures.”

She is walking back from the post office where she just delivered a signed autograph to be sent to a fan in China who asked for one via email.
“It is mind-blowing,” Adeagbo told the Mail & Guardian. She never thought her popularity would extend globally.

Adeagbo became the first woman from the continent to compete in the Winter Olympic sport of skeleton racing. She also formed part of the largest historical cohort of athletes from the continent.

READ MORE: Nigerian athlete slides into history

Adeagbo competed on February 16 and 17 in a four-heat race where her combined time of 3:36.78 saw her place 20th overall in the event, putting her milliseconds behind British gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold who had a combined time of 3:27.28.

She says that the runs went very well as she had a personal best on each day of the competition, ranking fourth for her starting time of 5.06 seconds with a downtime of 57.73 seconds. 

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

Now that her Olympic experience is over, Adeagbo plans on supporting her fellow athletes by watching some of the events like figure and speed skating as well as exploring parts of South Korea before she marches alongside her fellow athletes in the closing ceremony.

Asked about whether she would continue with the sport, Adeagbo admits she wants to take a bit of a break first. But, she says that she has grown so much in the last few months that she wants to see what more she can do in the sport.

For 36 year-old Adeagbo, the Winter Olympics are just the beginning of her story.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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