PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA -- They were there an hour early, there by the finish line of the bobsled track even in the bitter cold. Kola and Siki Adigun were bundled up, sure, but bubbling all the same. The chill in the air wasn't a problem. Not tonight.
"I can't believe it's happening," Kola said. He put his arm around Siki. "It's finally here."
Their daughter, Seun Adigun, was the one who first came up with the notion of a Nigerian bobsled team, the one who pitched an idea that, as she describes it, "put a sub-Saharan country on snow and ice" and left just about everyone else confused. About 15 months after Adigun and the two women she recruited to join her held their first meeting in Adigun's Houston home, their dream became a reality at the Winter Olympics.
With about 50 family and friends here cheering and waving green-and-white flags, the Nigerian women's bobsled team completed their first two runs down the Olympic Sliding Center track in a combined time of 1:44.76. It was far from a medal-winning time (it was 20th out of 20 teams at the end of the night) but that was hardly the point. There is a drawing of a map of Africa on the rear of Team Nigeria's sled, and that is what these women represent: They are the first team, of either gender, from an African nation to compete in bobsled at the Winter Olympics.
"I don't even think it's really hit us yet how impactful the whole process has been," Adigun said late Tuesday, after spending nearly an hour in the mixed zone as seemingly every camera crew asked for an interview. "We're just trying to tell our story."
Their journey to the starting house in South Korea was short but full of twists, as a trio of Nigerian-Americans came together to chase the Olympics. Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere are all former track athletes, and Adigun, who is a first cousin once removed of former NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, actually ran for Nigeria in hurdles at the London Olympics but struggled because of a leg injury.
After that experience, she figured she was done with sports (and began pursuing a medical degree) but felt the tug to try again after participating in a training camp with the U.S. bobsled program that was designed for athletes in other sports who wanted to learn about sliding.
When Adigun realized that Nigeria had never fielded a bobsled team -- and that no other African nation had either -- she put in motion a plan to try to make history. The first step was convincing two friends to join her, as well as constructing her own practice sled out of wood and other parts she bought at a hardware store.
That was followed by plenty of fundraising, endless training sessions and a winding road through five qualifying races before Team Nigeria completed all its requirements late last year. Then came a bit of a celebrity tour as the world learned about the team's story -- the women danced enthusiastically on "Ellen" -- and a stop in Nigeria to revel in their accomplishments before heading to Asia.
At the opening ceremony, Onwumere carried the flag, walking proudly in front of her teammates as well as Simi Adeagbo. She's a Nigerian business executive who lives in South Africa and flew to Houston when she heard about Adigun's plan to start a bobsled team and, ultimately, ended up qualifying for the Olympics on her own as a skeleton athlete. On Tuesday, Adeagbo found Kola and Siki near the finish line.
"Your child, she is the one who started all this -- thank you, thank you," she told them through a hug.
During the days in between the opening ceremony and Tuesday night's first heats, the Nigerians practiced, made a few appearances at sponsors' events and had some memorable experiences, including meeting the Nigerian ambassador to South Korea and having an audience with the prime minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, who found their story inspiring.
"Representation matters," Omeoga said. "We're showing people that anyone can do anything."
When these Olympics are over, the dream won't end right away, either. Team Nigeria is scheduled to travel back to Nigeria, where the women have been invited to meet the country's president.
"It will be a very, very proud day," said Siki, who plans to be there with Kola, too. "To meet the president? Amazing."
For the moment, however, Adigun is trying to stay focused on wringing every last moment out of the Olympic experience. Team Nigeria has two more runs down the track Wednesday night, and as much as Adigun knows that simply participating is meaningful, her competitive spirit still pushes her to keep an eye on the clock.
"I just want to see us get better each race," she said. "We keep saying that 'all we can give is everything we've got,' and I don't want to leave here without trying everything."