In a story shared, heard, and watched all over the world, the Jamaican bobsledding team made its debut in 1988, in Calgary, Alberta. Though they were highly recognized as the underdog, they were still willing to take on the challenge and race to qualify and then compete in the Winter Games. Their experiences, highly portrayed, documented, and broadcasted all over the world, were ones incomparable to much of anything winter sports had ever seen, and still, thirty years later have been uncontested. Until now.
From an experience that sprouted a full Winter Olympics career of team Jamaica appearing in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2014, and a largely widespread film, the original pioneers for non-snow-centered countries of the sport sparked a beginning that has caught fire (or ice), ever since.
There have been many other teams sprouting up from far-from-likely countries that have taken on a Winter Olympics qualifying round and succeeded. Though hard to compete against the shattering impact and sheer bombshell of the original debut of the Jamaican bobsledding team, these athletes hailing from these different, warm-climate countries have written their own stories not only in the sands of time but also in the ice and snow.
History of Snow-scarce Countries Appearing on the World Stage
Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg began his representation of team Mexico in 1984 and didn’t stop until he was 55 years old. Since he was of German blood, hence his name, and resided for the majority of his life in snow-capped Europe, he learned to ski with ease and didn’t face the common difficulties a citizen living in Mexico usually would when looking to maneuver down the mountain: the lack of snow. Since Mexico is not known for their success in the Winter Games, competing for a spot on the hardly sought out ski team of Mexico seemed like a viable option.
This Mexican-born athlete decided to take the country on his back and compete, making appearances in 1988, 1992, 1994, 2010, and 2014.
George Tucker, Puerto Rican born but raised in Albany, used his birth country to his advantage, signing up to compete in luge as one of the few representatives they have had to date. He was seen competing at the Sarvejo Games in 1984 but unfortunately finished in last place. Tucker came back, however, to achieve a better finish in 1988, finishing his Winter Games career.
In the year 1992, Elias Majdalani, Dany Aboumaoum, Raymond Kayrouz, and Jean Khalil all made appearances in the Alpine skiing event. However monumental it was because of their success, Lebanon could be seen in the Winter Olympics with a history dating back as far as 1948, with two skiers in Downhill and Slalom.
Other relatively hot-climate countries that have made their debuts, appearances, and left their marks in the Winter Olympics hail from Australia. From its debut in 1936 to its 2002 gold medal in Salt Lake City after a series of speed skating crashes, they have left their unexpected mark (and gold medal finish) in history.
The Cayman Islands also recently had their first ever Winter Olympian. Competing in Alpine Skiing in 2010, Dow Travers put the Cayman Islands on the map. Tonga had Fuahea Semi also known as Bruno Banani, a luger who had appeared in the 2014 winter games. Thailand brought their finest, a violinist and Alpine skier, Vanessa Vanakorn. She represented her country at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and created quite a following because of her various talents on a world stage.
There has been a large list of athletes coming from less than likely countries dabbling (and succeeding) in winter sports, and hopefully, plenty more to come.
Nigeria Qualifies for the 2018 Winter Olympics
The first African team to ever qualify for the Winter Games in bobsledding, this Nigerian team passed through all five required races to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuonma Omeoga, raced through their qualifying times in Park City, Utah, Whistler, Canada, and Calgary to secure Nigeria’s spot in the next Winter Games.
Soaking up the attention, they have truly enveloped their position of influence, as it empowers not only people of their country and the entire continent of Africa but also women in their native country as well.
It was no easy run, however, to get to the stage of the 2018 Winter Olympic qualifiers. The team even had to crowd-fund their training but did it successfully. Not only did they raise the 150 thousand dollars they needed, they also landed sponsorship deals with Visa and Under Armour.
These three women who make up Nigeria’s team have dual citizenship, all of them being born in the U.S. One of which, Adigun, even has a history of competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics, representing Nigeria in the 100 m hurdles, but also has competed on a world stage running the 60 m hurdles, and 4 x 100 relay.
Adigun first started the team, and then collectively invited Ngozi and Akuouma. These three determined women are also involved in a multitude of success-driven practices, like being a full-time student on course for a Doctorate degree, a working healthcare recruiter, and a chiropractic student.
Be prepared to hear many references connecting this team to the original pioneers, the Jamaican bobsledding team of 1988, which inspired the film.
Being related back to the original pioneers of the sport, as seen on Cool Runnings, however, this team embraces their newfound responsibilities to not only take a country on their backs competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics but also to pave the way for their country and other women to breakthrough intensive stereotypes and normalities. They find it honorable to have this responsibility, but of course accept it with a grain of a salt (a large grain), because even though they have been met with positive support from all over the world and especially Nigeria, they still have a lot yet to conquer.
Nevertheless, the world awaits their endeavor, their journey, and their race. Watching with mystified eyes as they become the first team of their country to compete in bobsledding, we can all agree that this sole fact is, of course, already a gargantuan feat of its own.
Please share this to spread the word of their success and help them gain support coming into the final stretch before the 2018 Winter Olympics. Feel free to, as well, leave a comment below expressing your words and thoughts for the team and lifting them up before they are off to compete on the world stage in PyeongChang.