As 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang started, people can’t stop talking about Nigeria for two reasons: the first Olympic women’s bobsled team out of Africa and Simidele Adeagbo, Africa’s first woman skeleton athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Now, Seun Adebiyi, the Nigerian who carried the Winter Olympics torch through Seoul, is another reason to mention Nigeria when next you talk about the games.
Carrying the torch is an Olympic tradition that precedes the start of the games. Considered a great honour, many apply to take part in the relay which sees the Olympic flame travel from Greece to the host country. And Adebiyi was lucky to have been selected through Samsung’s #DoWhatYouCant campaign.
But, come to think of it, it’s probably not luck. Before now, the 34-year-old attorney and pilot had a history with the Olympics.
In 2000, he was close to qualifying for the Olympics where he would’ve represented Nigeria in swimming. Three months before the game, he fractured his spine and had to pull out. Four years later and after rehab, he tried again but missed qualifying by a tenth of a second. But these obstacles didn’t kill his Olympic dream.
While in law school, he came up with the idea of competing in the Winter Olympics for Nigeria. His choice of sport was skeleton! While training to make that dream come true at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Adebiyi was diagnosed with lymphoma and, later, leukemia. But before the diagnosis, he had already set up a sports federation in Nigeria.
On what carrying the torch meant to him, he told Parade:
“Carrying the torch was very symbolic for me because Nigeria will actually compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics for the first time in history, and they’re going to use the sports federation that I created back in 2009 when I was trying to qualify. So, in a sense, I’m literally and figuratively passing the torch.”