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Olympian Simi Adeagbo: “It’s going to take being bold”

Nigerian winter Olympian and self proclaimed “sleigh queen” Simi Adeagbo joined the Bryn Mawr community to share her experience as the first ever Black and African woman to compete in the sport of skeleton at the winter Olympics in PyeongChang in 2018.  Adeagbo spoke with  Lower, Middle and Upper school students and athletes throughout the day.

As part of her story, Adeagbo asked students to think about where they could be on February 25, 2023, 100 days from her speech. That’s because Simi had 100 days to prepare for the Olympics. She went from knowing little about skeleton, the sport that involves sliding down a frozen race track headfirst on a sled she described as a little larger than a suitcase, to competing on the largest stage in sports. She urged students to consider what they could do in the next 100 days, and what they can do to make it happen. “No one gets to put limits on you,” she said.

Simi talked about her dream to become a summer Olympian and failing to make the Nigerian Olympic team for the summer Olympics in 2008.  “When you face your disappointments,” she said, “You can find a different way to get to your goals.”  

For Simi, that different way to achieve her goal was learning an entirely new sport, and making history as a winter Olympian.  Adeagbo competed at her first Olympics at the 2018 games as part of the Nigerian team, becoming the first Nigerian to compete at the Winter Olympics. She was also the Nigerian flag bearer at the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony.  While she didn’t bring home the gold, she told Lower School students, “I tried my very best. I made history. I made history for my country and for the whole continent of Africa. And I did my very best.” That prompted one first grader to exclaim to Simi “That’s what really matters!” 

After showing the Lower School her bobsled helmet, her specialized shoes and even having students model proper form on a scooter to mimic the skeleton sled, Simi shared lunch with Upper School Black student athletes before speaking to all Middle and Upper School students.  

During her presentations, Simi shared her principles for good leadership, telling students they need to focus, use their imagination and take risks. She also advised  Bryn Mawr students to ask themselves two questions about their dreams, “Why not you?” and “Why not now?”  She left students with advice to remember: “It’s going to take being bold,” she said, “Taking that first step is often the boldest thing you can do.”