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Winter Youth Olympics: Nigerian history-making curlers battle for funding

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Participating in the curling competitions in Gangwon, which begin on Saturday, will be a far cry from the facilities the team are used to in Nigeria.

With no ice rink to practise on, they train on a carpet surface in an apartment in Lagos.

“We started in 2018 but our regret is no-one is supporting us,” coach Imonite Kennedy told BBC Sport Africa.

“Despite not having a natural ice environment, we make do with floor curling yet no support has come from the government to help our ambitions.”

A high-ranking official of Nigeria’s ministry of sports development, Ismaila Abubakar, was clear that no backing was available for the sport.

“It’s not a major sport in Nigeria. We don’t have the money or the facility for the sport here,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

When asked about the team’s struggle to compete at the Winter Youth Olympics despite their historic qualification, he replied: “It doesn’t matter.

“Since we do not have money for it, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Wale-Adeogun got into curling after watching it on TV, having heard about the sport from her mother.

“It’s a very competitive but friendly sport, anyone can do it, whether you are as young as me or as old as my grandfather,” she said.

“When the coaches needed young curlers for the youth team, I signed up and now I am set to become an Olympian.”

NCF president Oyedepo says the sport has been built from the ground up in the West African country.

“We achieved this success using mostly home-based athletes, who had never been on ice before the qualifiers,” he said.

“It’s an historic achievement for us, being the first of its kind in the entire African region.”

Given the lack of facilities across the continent, several other winter sports athletes who have represented African nations have been raised abroad.

Nigeria’s curlers will be joined in South Korea by France-born skier Issa Laborde, who chose to represent his mother’s country of Kenya., external

Fellow Kenyan Ashley Ongonga, who is based in Italy, will become the first female cross-country skier from the continent of Africa to compete at the Winter Youth Olympics.

In monobob – individual bobsleighing – athletes Jonathan Lourimi, Beya Mokrani and Sophie Ghorbel will become the first ever Tunisian athletes to participate in any Winter Olympics, while Dali Shabonna will have the same honour for Lesotho.

All three are part of the PyeongChang 2018 Legacy Foundation’s New Horizons Academy, which assists athletes representing non-winter sport nations.

Algeria’s Abderrahmane Bouderbala and South Africa’s Lara Markthaler will also compete in Alpine skiing.

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