A group of Nigerian youngsters have become Africa’s first curling team to reach a Winter Youth Olympics but their arrival at the 2024 Gangwon Games was far from certain.

Their journey has been an unlikely one, given the lack of facilities – and particularly ice – in Nigeria, and their struggle encapsulates the continent’s challenge to break into winter sports.

The history-making teenagers secured Nigeria’s spot at the Games following their participation at the World Junior-B Curling Championships held in Lohja, Finland, in December 2022.

Yet the team have trodden a slippery path over the 13 months since then as a lack of funding threatened their participation in South Korea this month, leaving them frustrated and neglected despite their achievement.

“All our hard work (goes) to waste if we don’t make it to the Games despite qualifying,” Daniel Babalola, a 17-year-old curler for the team, nicknamed the Broomzillas, told BBC Sport Africa of the battle to reach Gangwon. The International Olympic Committee funded the transport of three male and three female athletes but not the two reserves, who would be called on in case of injury or illness.

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Nor, crucially, was money available for the travelling officials, coaches and chaperons, which threatened the entire trip.

The frustration of potentially missing out on the Games was evident on the faces of all the athletes, who feared their dreams of participating in South Korea were going to be dashed.

The Nigerian team started a fundraising appeal in an attempt to raise 68,000 euros ($73,800), but barely any money was pledged.

Ultimately the money required to travel came from the private savings of the team’s parents and Daniel Damola Oyedepo, president of the Nigerian Curling Federation (NCF).

“Our parents and coaches have worked hard to help us fulfil our dreams to fly Nigeria’s flag at the Olympics,” said 15-year-old team member Oluwanimifise Wale-Adeogun.