A three-woman bobsled team is set to represent Nigeria at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Unlike the charmingly underprepared Jamaican bobsled team that debuted in Calgary in 1988, these women look more like superheroes than underdogs.
The winter games have traditionally been limited to athletes from parts of the world that have a winter season. Snow and a familiarity with winter sports – particularly the high-tech versions that exist these days - is a pretty basic prerequisite for success. But National Olympic Committees from many African countries, including Nigeria, have been looking for creative ways to prepare athletes to compete in more events, particularly the ones with global appeal and lots of medals, like gymnastics and swimming. Everyone, it seems, wants to take credit for launching the next Michael Phelps.
But Seun Adigun, the driver of the bobsled team, thinks winter can work for her. “Together, we can demonstrate that nothing is impossible with a little faith, support, and willingness to persevere,” she told Face2FaceAfrica.
Adigun is also no stranger to sport or the cold. She grew up in Chicago, is a University of Houston graduate and a lifelong track and field athlete. In the 2012 games, she competed in relay and hurdles for Nigeria. Last year, she decided to switch specialties after she watched other runners attempt to extend their Olympic careers with a pivot to the bobsled track.
Adigun, along with teammates Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, has launched a GoFundMe page to help underwrite their training and supplies, including the actual sled. She’s got a flair for the dramatic. “The fate of Nigeria's eligibility to be represented in the 2018 Winter Olympics rests exclusively on my ability to qualify as a competent driver,” she wrote on the page.
I’m rooting for her specifically and Nigeria in general. It’s a country of many paradoxes, the wealthiest and most prosperous on the African continent, though still struggling to make itself whole. While Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has become one of the most the most prominent literary voices in the world, the country stares down a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, thanks to Boko Haram’s terrorist reign in the northeast part of the country. And then there is the ongoing problem of the missing oil revenues.
But, as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg discovered when he visited the country in September, Nigeria is teeming with tech talent and new ideas worthy of investment. One of his stops was Andela, a talent accelerator which recently closed a $24 million Series B funding round led by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the fund established by Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan. His visit shone a bright light on a sector that could use some international heat.
That the Olympics is an old idea doesn’t detract from the aspirational aspect of Nigeria’s bobsled ambitions, a different kind of investment for a different kind of return. For Adigun, a Chicago girl gone global citizen, there’s no place to go but down. The track, of course.
After Trump, divides deepen on campuses
Conservative and liberals on college campuses have long had an uneasy co-existence, but nothing in recent memory compares to the current post-election environment. Students who supported Trump are feeling dismissed and disrespected and are lobbying their administrations for equal time and safe spaces to express their views.
Van Jones: Trump opponents need to focus on policy, not name calling
In this piece - which is part short profile, part action plan for policy reform - activist and commentator Van Jones frames the way opponents to PEOTUS need to think. “It's going to be counter-revolution from above, against everything we care about – from climate, to women's rights, to Social Security, to health care,” he says. Getting distracted won’t help. Nor will the broad-brush cries of racism. “They think that we now live in a country with 60 million neo-Nazis. That's just not true,” he says.
White supremacist leader ignites protest at Texas A&M
Students from Texas A&M protested a speech delivered by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who had been filmed at a conference shortly after the presidential election saying “Hail Trump” and encouraging Nazi-like salutes from the audience. “He has made a lot of remarks and promoted chants that hail back to Nazi slogans. This is a campus that sacrificed nearly half of its student body to fight Nazis,” one protester told Reuters. Spencer had been invited to campus by a prominent alumnus who supports the white supremacist movement.
USA Swimming wins a diversity and inclusion award
It’s a small but mighty splash for a sport that has a long history of discrimination. USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming, received the PR News Diversity & Inclusion Campaign Award for creating inclusive swimming education and resource guides for black, LGBT and Latinx populations in both English and Spanish.
How to build diverse teams in tech
TechBeacon, an information site for techies and developers, has distilled a brilliant list of best practices that can help anyone diagnose and address a monoculture problem in their teams or startup. They offer specific tips for building a diverse talent pipeline, writing better job postings and overhauling your interview techniques. They take no prisoners. “Don’t make the same mistakes that Google and other major companies have been making,” they say. “[ A]lgorithm-centric “whiteboard interviews” are bad predictors of real-world development ability.”
Watch Shigeru Miyamoto play Super Mario Run and eat cake at the same time
Next week, Nintendo will release Super Mario Run for the iPhone and iPad, the first time that the beloved plumber will appear in a game on a non-proprietary device. It’s a huge move for Nintendo, fans and Shigeru Miyamoto, the legendary creator of Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and of course, the Mario canon. In this charming interview and video, Miyamoto talks about the decision to bring Mario to more players and plays the game while eating cake.
The Woke Leader
Joi Ito: Tech is elevating “disobedient” voices
Steven Levy interviews Joi Ito, the head of the MIT Media Lab, and one of the more creative digital thinkers working today. Ito has co-authored with Jeff Howe a new book called Whiplash, which describes how smart people and systems can respond to rapid technological change.“Donald [Trump]was riding the wave of the network society,” he says, adding the candidate is more revolutionary than people think. “The stuff we talk about in the book involves the democratization of technology. It’s about working class empowerment.”
A book and TV series on being black and British hopes to heal longstanding racial divides
The 1970s and '80s were a tough time to be a Brit of African descent, remembers David Olusoga, a writer. “It was a place and a time in which ‘black’ meant ‘other’ and ‘black’ was unquestionably the opposite of ‘British’,” he says. Racism ran the spectrum from casual to violent. His book and TV series, Black and British: A Forgotten History, weaves the story of his own family’s migration from Nigeria, to how many of the elements of racism in modern British life are linked to the legacy of the slave trade. An excellent long read.
Reporting while Muslim, a year in the life of covering the election
NPR reporter Asma Khalid has been called the most vile names imaginable, all in the course of reporting on demographics and politics in 2016. Her specific beat involved traveling the country talking to voters of all stripes at their homes, places of worship, rallies and diners. Typical political reporting stuff. “Through tears, I told [my editor] that if I had known my sheer existence — just the idea of being Muslim — would be a debatable issue in the 2016 election, I would never have signed up to do this job.”