Simidele Adeagbo made history at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games when she became the first Nigerian Winter Olympian and the first African and Black woman to compete in the sport of skeleton.
Her accomplishments are just as remarkable outside of the sport. The 39-year-old spent more than 15 years on Nike’s marketing team spearheading campaigns celebrating women in sports.
As an African woman, Adeagbo is at the intersection of the conversations about gender equity and continental representation at the Olympics, particularly at the Winter Games.
She has alleged that the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) is guilty of gender discrimination in allocating spots to men and women at the Beijing Olympics. In the monobob, women are allocated 20 spots, and in the two-person bobsleigh another 20. Meanwhile, the four-man bobsleigh event allocates 28 spots for men, and 30 in the two-man.
Diversity and inclusion of all countries is embraced and celebrated as part of the culture and policy of the Summer Olympics Games, that’s not necessarily the case for the Winter Games, which does not currently include continental quotas to ensure that every continent is represented in each event.
Adeagbo thinks the policy of the Winter Games should also reflect diversity and inclusion values and wants to use her voice to drive change through conversation and action via engagement of the necessary stakeholders.
She says she’s not exactly sure what that looks like yet, but she plans to continue working in whatever ways she can to align the current state of play with the Olympic values.
Female representation is of utmost importance to Adeagbo; it’s so urgent that she is creating the Simi Sleighs Foundation to address it. The non-profit organization will be a place where female athletes can go for support, empowerment and the resources they need to reach their goals, inside and outside of elite athletics.
Representation and visibility at the Olympics are powerful and inspiring. The Olympics only come once every four years. The importance of investing in athlete development in Africa and in other emerging countries where winter sports are not as common is just as crucial in the off years.