PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (BP) — They may not have much snow and ice in Nigeria, but that hasn’t stopped Simidele Adeagbo from making Olympic history — and she says the Lord is the one who directed her path.
Adeagbo is the first Nigerian, the first African female and the first black female to compete in the skeleton event (riding down a track headfirst on a sled) in the Olympics.
Lots of athletes spend years practicing their sport to attain the skills necessary to make the Olympics. For Adeagbo, it was just a matter of weeks.
Adeagbo was a track and field athlete at the University of Kentucky and had dreams of being an Olympian that never materialized.
“In December of 2015 I read an article about the Nigerian women’s bobsled team,” she told Baptist Press. “And when I read that article, I felt like … God was almost telling me, ‘This is your chance.'”
She reached out to the bobsled team but found out there wasn’t an opening. Fast forward a couple of years when, this past August, she saw an advertisement for tryouts for the Nigerian bobsled and skeleton team.
She decided to make the trip from South Africa, where she lives, to Houston for the tryout. She did well enough that she was invited back. In September — only five months ago — she picked up a skeleton sled for the first time.
“I just continued to push forward in faith that this was possible,” she said. “And here I am.”
Adeagbo was raised in a Christian home but said it wasn’t until college in Kentucky that she began to take her relationship with Jesus Christ more seriously.
“We can all go to church and be religious, but I think God has shown me different things over the years to show me that He’s real, what He can do, and what I can do in partnership with Him through faith,” Adeagbo said. “So it’s been a lifelong journey, but really I would say as I went into college, I’ve started to just grow and mature in my walk.”
Her reliance on the Lord becomes evident when she steps onto the track and begins the process of hurdling down headfirst at speeds greater than 70 mph.
“This sport is a faith sport,” she said. “You have to have faith when all you are is just you and this sled. You have to let go and let God drive it in a partnership with you.”
She prays for God to give her peace and strength and to help her relax. She prays for help and admits that she has received lots of it over the past few weeks. As a newcomer to the sport, she has relied on a lot of aid from others.
All along, she’s watched God put everything into place, little by little, to help her achieve her dreams.
“When I needed a coach, he was there,” Adeagbo said. “When I needed a sled, it came. People just came out of nowhere to help me, and I really believe that was God just putting people in place and things in place to help me along the way.”
Adeagbo, who competes in the skeleton event Feb. 16-17, said she’s been studying Rick Warren’s concept of SHAPE (spiritual gift, heart, abilities, personality and experiences). Everyone has a unique SHAPE, she said, and needs to use it to serve God and others.
As she’s made her Olympic journey and contemplated what comes after it’s over, Adeagbo wants to use the opportunity she’s been given — and her SHAPE — to continue to serve and bring glory to God.
“What’s next? I don’t know,” she said. “But I know that God will continue to guide me.”