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Africa's Winter Olympics hopefuls

Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana practices during Men's Skeleton training ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 7, 2018, in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Matthias Hangst | Getty Images

Despite not being known for their snowy climes, a handful of African nations will be represented at the Winter Olympics, which starts Friday.

CNBC takes a look at some of the African athletes contesting medals in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


Nigeria's women's bobsled team is to make its debut at the 2018 Games. Comprising of Seun Adigun, driver and founder, and two brakewomen, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, the three athletes — all born in the U.S. to Nigerian parents — were previously successful track and field competitors before transitioning to bobsled.

Team leader and driver Seun Adigun of Nigeria's women's bobsled team training ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on February 7, 2018.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

The team's crowdfunding page for equipment reached its $75,000 target in 14 months.

"In all seriousness, we have never not laughed together since we've met," Akuoma said on the Nigerian Bobsled & Skeleton Federation's website.

Nigeria has another representative at the 2018 Games, skeleton racer Simidele Adeagbo. Also a successful athlete in the U.S., Adeagbo was inspired by her female bobsled counterparts. After first hearing about the team in 2016, she contacted them on social media to ask about joining.

After bobsled and skeleton trials, Adeagbo will be Nigeria's first competitor in the latter sport.

"I saw a unique opportunity to apply my talent and serve my country in the sport of skeleton and haven't looked back ever since," she said on the Nigerian Bobsled & Skeleton Federation site.


The 2018 Games will see Ghana's first athlete competing in the skeleton, Akwasi Frimpong. Representing the country alone this year, he is the country's second-ever competitor in any Winter Olympics.

Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana competes at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Championships on February 24, 2017, in Koenigssee, Germany.
Alexander Hassenstein | Bongarts | Getty Images

Frimpong was born and raised in Ghana, but moved to the Netherlands aged eight, initially as an illegal immigrant. Exceling at sprinting, he first dreamed of representing the Netherlands at London 2012 but was beset by injury.

Skeleton came to Frimpong later in his career – after experimenting with bobsledding he turned to the sport in 2016.

"I set myself the goal of becoming the first African to win a medal in Winter Olympic history. I knew it would take me four to six years to become really good, so initially my target was the 2022 Games. But when I started racing in 2016, I surprised myself," he said in a story on the official Olympics website.


The clandestine East African nation of Eritrea will be making its debut at the Winter Games this year.

Canadian/Eritrean alpine skier Shannon Abeda.
Courtesy of Shannon Abeda

Shannon Abeda is Eritrea's lone hopeful at the games, competing in the slalom and giant slalom events. Born in Alberta, Canada, to Eritrean immigrant parents, the 21-year-old told Canadian broadcaster CBC: "I have grown up here with a lot of friends who are Canadian but I also have that connection inside to who I am as an Eritrean."

Abeda, also a computer science student, has been competing for his parents' birth country since 2011.

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