It may seem like Africa’s first-ever Olympic bobsled team have a snowball’s chance in the Sahara of snagging medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But what the Nigerian newcomers lack in podium experience, they certainly make up for in passion and perseverance.
Forming their bobsled team from scratch in 2015, the female trio of Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, and Ngozi Onwumere, had to then crowdfund $75,000 to buy essential equipment and fund their Olympic qualifying bid.
Now as the first Nigerian athletes to ever compete in the Winter Olympics, as well as being the first African bobsled team to qualify, these three women are fully focused on representing their country and continent to the best of their ability.
And while the world looks on to see what these dedicated athletes can show us about the high-risk sport of bobsledding, here are a few things they can definitely teach us about getting gritty with our own Olympic-sized goals.
Grit Lesson 1: Use Passion and Purpose to Push through Limits
Grit is not just about perseverance. According to grit expert and psychologist Angela Duckworth, it also involves having passion and purpose. When Seun Adigun, driver and founder of the team, contacted Onwumere and Omeoga to be her brakewomen, all she had was a dream to instigate a new sporting first for Nigeria. Representing both Nigeria and the African continent, and inspiring others to break through barriers have since become driving forces for the trio. “Our objective now is to be the best representation of Nigeria and Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed,” Adigun has said.
How to make like an Olympian: Give challenging goals a big-picture perspective and purpose. For example, whether you’re trying to shift weight, get fit, or start your own business, think of how achieving these goals will benefit your loved ones and not just yourself, and use that as motivating force to keep moving forward.
Grit Lesson 2: See Obstacles as Opportunities
Before they achieved the seemingly unimaginable feat of qualifying for the Winter Games, the US-based trio had to come up with ways to buy helmets and uniforms and to fund travel, all of which they made happen through a GoFundMe campaign. They also needed an actual bobsled. Their first practice sled was built by Adigun from supplies she bought at her local hardware store. And since no national governing body existed for their sport in Nigeria, they had to instigate the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria themselves.
According to these athletes, however, overcoming all these hurdles only proved to them what they could achieve.
“This whole journey has taught me that self-improvement is on a continuum,” Onwumere said in a CNN interview. “And even when we get to the Olympics, it’s still like, ‘What happens next?’ And that’s what life is about: just always wanting to improve.”
How to make like an Olympian: When tackling tough obstacles, focus first on what you can do. Adigun’s homemade sled may not have been perfect, but it gave the Olympic hopefuls something to practice on until they could upgrade to the real deal. Use your own life obstacles as a means to come up with creative solutions and surprise yourself with what you can do.
Grit Lesson 3: Compete to Win
Comparisons to the famous 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, which inspired the movie Cool Runnings, have been inevitable, and the Nigerian trio are happy to embrace the team’s legacy. However, while the all-male Jamaican team crashed out mid-competition, these Olympians have higher hopes. It doesn’t matter that they’re rookies; they refuse to be the underdogs. All three athletes were previously successful track and field competitors, and they’ve come into the Winter Games willing to fight the other 19 bobsled teams for a place on the podium.
How to make like an Olympian: Decide that your goal is achievable, and in doing so make sure to recognize all the small wins along the way. Adigun and company rightly noted that if they succeeded in qualifying for the Winter Games, then they have as good a chance as any of the other qualifiers of succeeding all the way to medal position.
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