Samuel Ikpefan, Nigeria's first Winter Olympic cross-country skier
Nigeria's Samuel Ikpefan will make his Winter Olympic debut as the country's first-ever Winter Olympic cross-country skier in the coming 2022 Games in China.
He joined CGTN's Beijing 2022 special series "The Chat Room – Meet the Olympians" on Sunday to share the story of his career.
Ikpefan has dual citizenship as he was born in France. He used to train different sports including football, judo and, of course, cross-country skiing before deciding what sport he should make his career.
However, in 2011, Ikpefan suffered a major setback: he was turned down by the French skiing team. That's when he decided to put a pause on his career and didn't return in five years.
In 2016, Ikpefan learnt that he could become a cross-country skier on behalf of Nigeria, his second home, though he must wait until 2018 to start over. He reached out to the Nigerian skiing federation. Their vice-president wanted to test Ikpefan by asking him to participate in a demonstration in Nigeria.
Ikpefan accepted the challenge and flew to Nigeria for the first time in his life.
"It was huge, it touched me," Ikpefan told Olympic.com. "I saw my father again for the first time in a year as he moved there for his retirement. When I walked on Nigerian soil, I started to get emotional. Some tears came to my eyes."
The demonstration happened at the 60,000-seat Abuja National Stadium and was broadcast on national television. Ikpefan convinced the vice-president with his performance and became a member of the Nigerian cross-country skiing team.
In 2021, Ikpefan made history by becoming the first Nigerian skier to attend the World Cross Country Ski Championships in Germany and the World Cup in Sweden. His next stage is the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022.
Back in 2018, Nigeria sent four athletes, Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, Ngozi Onwumere and Simidele Adeagbo to participate in the two-woman bobsleigh and skeleton events in the Winter Games in Pyeongchang. Though they did not win any medal, their performance was very inspiring in a country where winter sports have been barely popular.
Now Ikpefan will take that duty from them to make Nigeria proud in Beijing 2022 and get more people, especially the youngsters, in his country, to grow interested in winter sports.
"I am so proud to represent Nigeria," Ikpefan said. His goal is more than making appearance in one edition of the Winter Olympics. He wants to participate in Milano Cortina 2026 as well.