African Winter Olympians see success out of failure

Ismail Akwei February 26, 2018
Winter Olympians from Nigeria and Ghana dressed up for the closing ceremony

It was all inspirational in the run-up to the just ended 2018 WInter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea where eight African countries raised the hopes of the continent expecting to feature on the medal table for the first time since 1984.

Athletes from NigeriaEritreaGhanaKenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Morocco and Togo raised the flags of their warm countries high and competed with athletes who are geographically familiar with snow and ice.

They went, they saw and didn’t conquer any medals like every other Winter Olympics attended by Africans since the first representation in 1984 when Senegalese alpine skier Lamine Gueye entered the competition at Sarajevo.

Africa’s first female bobsled team who represented Nigeria for the first time at the Winter Olympics were confident of glory and gained the most attention. They finished 20th in the overall standings out of 20 teams and still beamed with smiles.

The U.S.-born athletes celebrated their historic Winter Olympics appearance for Nigeria despite being eluded by glory. “The biggest thing that this will do for young girls in Nigeria is to actually have them set morals outside the box … I think this is something that can inspire women to go outside their own way to figure out what they want to do and do it,” says a member of the team Akuoma Omeoga.

For the Ghanaian-born athlete, Akwasi Frimpong, who gained popularity for his dance moves, he advised the youth to dare to dream and stay persistent like he did to get to the Olympic Games after staying in the Netherlands for 13 years as an illegal immigrant.

“I truly believe that in life if failure was the only last step, there wouldn’t be something called success …It took me twice to get to the Olympic Games, it took me 15 years to get to the Olympic Games. I was 13 years illegal but I persisted and stayed resilient,” he advised.

It was the same feeling for the rest of the African contingent who came last in their various competitions.

A Nigeria-based public relations expert who spoke with the BBC questioned the patriotism of the athletes and the support offered by the African countries.

“It seems to me that these African countries saw an opportunity to make an appearance at the Winter Olympics without doing the hard work and the athletes probably saw an opportunity for global recognition on the platform of their parents’ countries, so it just works,” says Korede Oluwole.

“The lack of regulation and carelessness within the polity means that next time, anyone from anywhere in Europe or America can decide to attend some sporting event and use their Nigerian or Somali heritage as a right to register for such event, raise money and become celebrities literally overnight,” he adds.

Nonetheless, the closing ceremony on Sunday featured very happy, colourful and victorious looking African Winter Olympians who were looking forward to qualifying for the next event in China.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: June 19, 2018


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