Nigeria women’s bobsled team nears historic Olympic berth

Nigeria women's bobsled
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Nigeria is the most successful African nation by Summer Olympic medals yet to compete at the Winter Olympics.

That is almost certainly about to change.

Nigerian bobsled driver Seun Adigun fulfilled Olympic eligibility requirements at a lower-level race in Calgary on Wednesday.

Adigun, who competed in the 2012 Olympic 100m hurdles heats, is not qualified for the Winter Olympics — yet.

Olympic bobsled qualification is a little complicated, but it’s extremely likely that Adigun will mathematically clinch an Olympic berth as early as Dec. 2.

Nigeria owns 25 Summer Olympic medals, making it the third-most successful Summer Olympic nation yet to compete in a Winter Games (Cuba, Indonesia), according to Olympic historians known as the OlyMADMen.

A total of 55 Africans among 13 nations have competed in the Winter Games, but none in an Olympic bobsled race. Most were in skiing.

The best finish was 13th by South African pairs figure skaters Gwyn Jones and Marcelle Matthews in 1960, the first Winter Olympics with African competitors.

Only one African has competed in any Olympic sliding sport — South African Tyler Botha was 21st out of 27 racers in the 2006 men’s skeleton event.

Adigun, 30, was born in Illinois to Nigerian parents. She sprinted for the University of Houston before making the 2012 Olympics.

“I kind of had Olympic fever again,” Adigun told CBS News last year. “So, this was 2014, and the [Sochi] Winter Olympics was on, and I knew quite a few track and field athletes who had transitioned into the winter sports. So I figured, you know, I think I can try this.”

Adigun began bobsledding in 2015 as a push athlete for the U.S. before switching to driving for Nigeria before last season.

“All I knew of it was the movie ‘Cool Runnings,'” Adigun told a Houston TV talk show in August.

Her chances of qualifying for the 2018 U.S. Olympic team were limited due to a deep pool of push athletes, most former track and field collegians. But developing nations can qualify for Olympic bobsled, as the 1993 Disney film showed Adigun.

Since no other African nations have women’s bobsled teams, a pathway was open to qualify for Nigeria via the International Bobsled Federation’s continental representation spot.

If Adigun makes the Olympics, her brakewoman will likely be another former NCAA sprinter that she recruited to bobsled. Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga were also born in the U.S. to Nigerian parents.

They began training in a wooden sled they named “The Maeflower” in Houston before competing on ice together.

The story is similar to the Jamaican men’s bobsled team from 30 years ago.

Jamaica, coincidentally, also hopes to qualify its first Olympic women’s bobsled team this winter with an American-born driver (2014 U.S. Olympic driver Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian).

“These [Jamaican] men did something very special, and to be able to have everyone who is hearing our story put us on the same line of legacy that these men have created, that’s really honorable,” Adigun told CBS News.

In her five lower-level races so far, Adigun was either the last or next-to-last finisher. An Olympic medal is not realistic.

“Success would be for me to successfully navigate the track as a very novice driver,” Adigun told the BBC last winter.

The Nigerian bobsledders are sponsored by Visa and Under Armour. Adigun has appeared in a Toyota ad, too. They previously had a crowdfunding page, hitting their goal of $75,000.

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MORE: U.S. bobsledders remember Steven Holcomb as Olympic season starts

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here with redactions.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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