by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer
It was the 21 year old’s first appearance in the tournament, having made his debut in 2008 at the African Junior and Cadet Championships in Alexandria.
However, it was in 2013 when he caught the eye. He won the Men’s Singles title at the 45th Asoju Oba Cup in Lagos and in so doing departed the owner of a new Chevrolet saloon car!
Less than one month later at the World Junior Championships in Rabat, in the group stage of the Boys’ Singles event, after losing to Korea’s Lim Jonghoon (11-9, 11-4, 11-9, 11-5), he came within a whisker of causing an upset of note. In a memorable contest, he was beaten by Kanak Jha of the United States by the very narrowest of seven game margins (3-11, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-7, 11-13, 13-11).
Now, having competed in the two most recent editions of the ITTF World Tour Nigeria Open, later this month in Budapest, Olajide Omotayo will compete in Hungary; it is an opportunity to test his mettle against high class opposition.
“I really feel happy and motivated being my first ITTF Tour outside Nigeria because this is a breakthrough for me and a chance to compete with top players in the world as well as to improve my ranking, skills and gain more experience which I think is all I need to become a top player”, Olajide Omotayo
Olajide Omotayo plies his trade with ASD Marcozzi, a second division team in the Italian table tennis league and this season he has played 12 matches with only one loss. The team occupies the number one spot in the league table, the dream of gaining promotion to division one near reality.
“Apart from the three tournaments where I had already confirmed my participation, I am still planning to attend more if possible. I believe my participation in these competitions will help me get good results, stepping up in the game remains my target. In the Nigerian team, there are so many good players and I know it is really going to be a hard one as I count myself lucky to be in the team which has the combination of experience of Segun Toriola and youthfulness of Quadri Aruna. I want to do everything possible to retain my place in the team by attending World Tours and training harder and harder”, Olajide Omotayo
In addition to his commitments in Italy and Hungary, Olajide Omotayo plans to compete in the Challenge tournaments in Slovenia and on home soil in Nigeria.
“Actually I am currently ranked 600 in the world which saddens me whenever I go through the ITTF ranking page but at the same time it means I still have a long way to go. I know that the likes of Segun Toriola and Quadri Aruna started like this and having such people around me motivates me that impossible is nothing. All I need is to remain focus and keep fit always and with hard work success is sure. Quadri Aruna has a big influence on me and I must say I watch his matches often and learn how he plays with top players in the world. Seeing Quadri Aruna’s performance gives me hope and also triggers me to always believe in myself”, Olajide Omotayo
Undoubtedly, Segun Toriola and Quadri Aruna set the standard for Nigeria; they have raised the profile of table tennis in Nigeria. They are role models; especially for Olajide Omotayo.