by Simon Daish
The award was presented to Toriola by the ITTF President Thomas Weikert, which was then followed by a photo session. But just how did the Nigerian Table Tennis player get to where he is now?
Segun Toriola was born in Ilorin (Nigeria) on September 18th 1974 and has been competing at the top level of African Table Tennis since the mid-1990s. He was ranked number one in Africa for ten consecutive years (1998-2008) and picked up six African Table Tennis Championship titles (four singles, two doubles).
One of his career highlights was winning the Men’s Singles gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, following a 4-2 victory over Canadian Johnny Huang in the final.
Barcelona 1992 was where Toriola made his Olympic debut, as he partnered up with Oluyomi Bankole in the Men’s Doubles competition. The duo exited at the group stages, but managed to register a win against Ruben Arado and Santiago Roque of Cuba.
Toriola’s first singles experience at an Olympic Games came four years later at Atlanta 1996, where he beat Chetan Baboor (India).
Another opening round elimination for Toriola in both the singles and doubles categories followed in Sidney (2000), but at the 2004 Games in Athens he overcame Argentina’s Pablo Tabachnik to reach round two of the Men’s Singles competition.
Beijing 2008 saw Toriola achieve his personal best finish at an Olympic Games, progressing through to the third round of the singles and beating Joao Monteiro (Portugal) and Jean-Michel Saive in the process. 2008 was also the first Olympic Games to introduce the Team Event but while Toriola’s Nigeria won 3-2 against Russia a swift exit followed.
After winning his preliminary round match against Canada’s Andre Ho, Toriola was drawn to play Jörgen Persson in round one of London 2012 but, unfortunately for the Nigerian player, that was as far as he would go as Persson won in five ends.
Competing at his seventh Games, Segun Toriola knew that he carried some media interest heading into the Men’s Singles tournament and he caused a round one upset by defeating Dimitrij Prokopcov (Czech Republic) 4-2, a player placed 41 spots higher on the ITTF world rankings list (79th). Toriola then gave Koki Niwa an exit scare in round two, but it wasn’t to be for Toriola as the Japanese contestant won in six games.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games featured an incredible 41 shot rally between Toriola and Gao Ning, which the Nigerian player won in dramatic style.