Chicago’s Black Olympians going for gold

Shani Davis, Seun Adigun, Aja Davis

By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader

Athletes from around the world are set to gather in PyeongChang, South Korea for the XXIII Olympic Winter Games this week, and Black Americans will be representing in a variety of sports disciplines.

Shani Davis, Aja Evans and Seun Adigun, all from the Chicago area, are excited about the journey. For Davis, this will be his fourth Olympics; he is seen as one of the greatest speed skaters in history. Evans will be making her second appearance after returning home with a bronze medal in bobsledding four years ago. But this year’s media darling could be Evanston, Illinois native Adigun.

A prep track and field star at Evanston Township High School, Adigun personifies the Olympic spirit. Following a dream and an idea, Adigun raised money from a GoFundMe page to buy a bobsled and started training with her teammates. She will be representing the country of Nigeria along with her fellow Nigerians Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere.

Adigun was a 100-meter hurdler and competed in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. She retired from track after the games, but could not get competition out of her blood. So she convinced Omeoga and Onwumere to become her brakemen, and she would be the driver, with the goal of being the first bobsled team to ever compete in the Olympics from the entire continent of Africa. They are able to compete for Nigeria because all three hold dual citizenship in the U.S. and Nigeria.                                                                                            

All three of the ladies were born in the United States after their parents emigrated from Nigeria. Adigun said it is weird but nice, to know they will be cheered for by both Americans and Nigerians.

“It was a pretty lofty goal,” said Adigun with a laugh. “Some people thought I was crazy but surprisingly, a lot of people were very supportive.”

“I realized it was a void from the country of Nigeria… but I also know Chicagoans will be rooting for me as well. It’s been pretty crazy since we qualified a few weeks ago. My entire life has changed, because in track and field I was just another runner. Now I’m one of three Nigerian bobsledders. It’s historical. It’s what I’ll be known for. That’s amazing!”

As for American bobsledder, Aja Evans, she is trying to upgrade her medal to silver or gold this time around. She can relate to what Adigun is going through, as 2014 was her first time as an Olympian. A former shot putter at the University of Illinois, the Morgan Park High School alum has maintained a public image since winning bronze in Russia four years ago. She appeared in the ESPN Body Issue and has made numerous television appearances.

“It’s a game-changer,” she said of being an Olympian. “I didn’t realize how many people, especially kids, I was inspiring until I got back home from Russia. To be honored by the Chicago Public Schools, marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and throwing out the first pitch at the Chicago White Sox game, it’s been a whirlwind four years. And I’ve really enjoyed meeting a lot of little kids and telling them what I do.”

Evans, now 29, said she has never stopped training and believes her team has a chance to bring home the gold this time around. The U.S. is one of four nations to qualify two sleds in women’s bobsled. Evans will be reunited with her 2014 partner, Jamie Greubel Poser. They are favored to win a medal.

“Jamie and I have a great relationship and now with four years of experience behind us, I think we can do really well.”

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