A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Nigerian bobsledders based in Houston make international news

Seun Adigun and Akuoma Omeoga of Nigeria react with Aminat Odunbaku in the finish area during the Women's Bobsled at PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Aelxander Hessenstein/Getty Images

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It was never really about challenging for Olympic gold. Or silver. Or bronze.

It was about getting there. About chasing a dream. About opening a door.

Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga went three-for-three in Pyeongchang.

The Houston-based team of former track stars became the first Nigerians to compete in the bobsled competition  at the Winter Olympics. That they were 3.50 seconds behind the leaders after two runs and wound up finishing last in the 20-team field – 7.15 seconds behind Germany’s gold medalists  Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz – isn’t the point.  

That they lived their dream and inspired others is.

“It’s quite amazing,’’ Adigun said after the final Olympic run. “I’m overwhelmed with joy and overwhelmed with the idea of knowing that history was made and we gave everything we had to do it.

“. . .This was just one of those days that you can’t really describe. Full of all kinds of emotions – full of relief, full of history.”

Adigun, who pulled the team together, was the most experienced of the group. And she wasn’t even that experienced.

In December, she likened competing at the qualifying level to being a 16-year-old who just got her driver’s license and jumping into a car at Daytona.

“Every time I cross the finish line,’’ Adigun said, “I thank God we survived.’’

The former University of Houston hurdler, who competed in the 2012 Summer Games for Nigeria, trained the for three months and made the 2015 U.S. National bobsled team as a brakeman.  She had so much fun that she talked to Onwumere, who ran at UH when Adigun was an assistant coach, and got her on board. Then they added Omeoga and formed the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria. Both Onwumere and Omeoga were Adigun’s brakemen.

That done, Adigun started a crowd-funding site to help raise $75,000 for their journey and built a makeshift wooden bobsled for training. With no snow in Houston, they practiced by using the bobsled on a running track.

The road to the Olympics wasn’t easy.

Once they got proficient, they had to make it through five Olympic-sanctioned qualifers just to get to South Korea.  As they made their way through the races, they attracted attention much like the Jamaican bobsled team that competed 30 years ago and inspired the movie, Cool Runnings.

They even caught the eye of Ellen DeGeneres and they flew to California to dance and chat with Ellen on her television show.

Along the way, they landed with Team Visa and got a sponsorship from Under Armour, which featured them in a campaign called Ice Blazers: Expect the Unexpected.

They inspired not just Nigerian athletes, but also athletes everywhere with their 18-month, start-to-finish sprint to the Olympics.

“You can do whatever you want,” Omeoga said. “If you see our faces and we inspire you to do something, then that’s absolutely all we ask for.”

Before they knew it, they were off to Pyeongchang where reporters couldn’t get enough of their story.

“You have these outlandish kind of ideas, and then all of the sudden you see them slowly but surely manifest themselves into reality,” Adigun told USA TODAY. “Every milestone that comes, everyone that gets involved, you start to see it come together.”

Not even a very ragged final run put a damper on things. Afterward, they were talking about the interest they stirred up among Nigerian athletes and Beijing in 2022.

“I don’t think it’s hit us how impactful this whole process is actually going to be in the long run,” Adigun said. “We’re so honored and humbled to be in the position that we are, to be able to show people that impossible is nothing. And that you don’t have to quantify things by just a result, a first place, second place or any time.”

Adigun expressed her joy at simply completing this journey with tears after the final run. And, she hinted that this might well be the start of a new journey for this bobsled team.

“By God’s grace you will see Nigeria in Beijing,” she told Olympic reporters. “We did everything we could. People are super-stoked back in Nigeria. We just pray all of our resilience does foster into some future athletes.”

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.

Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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