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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.”

WWE's Royal Rumble arrives this Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Paul Muth

I'm not a big sign guy.

You know sign guys. The people who write puns on posters. The ones who carry the letter "D" in one had and a cutout of a literal fence in the other. The "Houston, YOU have a problem" sign guys.

I tried it once when I was 14, was punched in the face, and sort of lost my appetite after that.

Let me explain.

It was April 1, 2001. Wrestlemania 17. I won't ask my parents how much it cost them, but my aunt and uncle scored floor seats to the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment in no better confines than the Astrodome herself and I got to tag along.

It was a hell of a show. Some say it was one of the best Wrestlemanias ever. The card was stacked, including a Triple-H match against the hometown hero The Undertaker that set the stage for the main event.

At precisely two hours and forty-eight minutes into the event, Undertaker sent Triple-H flying over the barricade and "INTO THE STANDS!"

"Holy crap," 14-year-old Paul thought. "They're headed right down my aisle."

Now I'm not sure how it works these days, but back then it was totally customary to bail on your seat and follow the fight as they weaved up and down the aisles. I wasn't about to miss the chance so I grabbed my poorly scribbled wrestling poster, glanced back and my Aunt for the OK, then darted after the action.

The fight snaked its way up to some scaffolding with a camera perched atop. There, the fight would stall as they battled their way to the top. Oblivious to anything but the action in front of me, I threw my sign up as high as I could, probably screamed at the top of my lungs, and my voice probably cracked in the process. I was 14.

Suddenly someone pushed me in the back of my shoulder. I turned around and there was an old lady, maybe five feet tall, standing on her chair. She had the quintessential cowgirl big hair and enough costume jewelry on to short-circuit a metal detector.

"GET THE @#$% OUT THE WAY, BOY," she commanded in the most east Texas accent you've ever heard in your life. I ignored her and turned back around.

Then she pushed me again.

I turned around again and before I had any clue what was happening, this knockoff mini Dolly Parton had already connected a stiff left hook to my temple. She then grabbed my sign and ripped it in half. Stunned, I retreated to my seat while tending to a now bleeding eyebrow thanks to what I assume was a Wal-Mart engagement ring.

Haven't really been a big sign guy since.

But this weekend the WWE takes over Minute Maid Park for their annual Pay-Per-View event known as the Royal Rumble. It will be the first time since that fateful night in the Astrodome 19 years ago that I've returned to a high profile wrestling event.

Now am I looking forward to this weekend as an opportunity to retake the dignity that was ripped away so long ago? Probably not. I'll most likely just drink a bunch of beer and yell at wrestlers with my friends. But I'm not ruling anything out.

Now instead of a power rankings this week, I figured that in the spirit of the Royal Rumble we could rehash some of the best sports fights Houston's served up:

#5 Charles Barkley throws man through window

Now I know this one didn't happen on a court, but the story is just too good. In a classic case of "play stupid games, win stupid prizes," a 5'2" Floridian by the name of Jorge Lugo decided to harrass the 6'6" then-power forward for the Houston Rockets at an Orlando bar . Barkley ignored and avoided the issue until a Lugo-thrown glass intended for Barkley missed and struck a nearby woman. Bad move. When judge presiding over the ensuing case asked Barkley if he had any regrets, The Round Mound of Rebound replied "Yeah, I regret we weren't on a higher floor."

#4 Chris Paul serves a two-piece to Rajon Rondo

This one is actually fairly recent and adds to what I discovered was a hefty list of Rockets throw downs. After breaking up a stare down between Lakers forward Brandon Ingram and James Harden, Paul and Rondo began a heated chest-to-chest exchange. From all replay indications it appeared as if Rondo then spit on Paul, which triggered a disrespectful finger push to Rondo's face, which then descended into a good old fashioned knuckle sandwich exchange. Paul was suspended for two games.

#3 Derrick Lewis verifies amateur of amateur status

Some dude actually had the nerve to walk in to UFC Heavyweight fighter and Houston native Derrick Lewis' gym and pick a fight. The amateur claimed that he would knock Lewis out because he was an MMA fighter, and not a real boxer. "The Black Beast" was more than happy to oblige, and swiftly teleported the no name into the shadow realm.

#2 Vernon Maxwell fights Portland man

Sometimes people forget that sporting events are intended to be family friendly. Some also forget that players are people with actual feelings. Maxwell claims that aside from general harassment, a Portland fan decided to bring Maxwell's wife's recent miscarriage to light as well. Maxwell stood up from the bench, calmly walked up the stairs, and knocked the crap out of the dude. Maxwell was suspended 10 games.

#1 Andre Johnson baptizes Courtland Finnegan

It had been seasons in the making. Finnegan had built a reputation out of adding cheap shots here and there, ripping helmets off at the end of plays, and various other dirty tactics. In late November of 2010 Johnson had reached the end of his rope. Schadenfreude was the flavor of the day for all Texans fans as Johnson manhandled Finnegan, reigning down fists of righteous justice.

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