by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
A place in the main draw is the first task for the now 22 year old, who during his teenage years received support for his efforts from the International Table Tennis Federation; most importantly he fears no-one and is undoubtedly ready for the challenge.
It was a fact he proved at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games when he was the man of the match in the Men’s Team bronze medal contest against India. He partnered Segun Toriola to doubles success against Amalraj Anthony and Harmeet Desai (11-9, 3-11, 11-7, 11-5) to give Nigeria a two matches to one lead, before sealing victory by causing a major upset. Fearless, he beat Sharath Kamal Achanta (11-9, 3-11, 11-5, 11-7).
“This year I am hoping to improve my world ranking and also concrete my place in the Nigeria senior team. I know that my doing well in all World Tours is very important for me to achieve my target. I hope that I can get back to my rightful place in the world by ensuing that I put up in good performances at the World Tours. I must also admit that it is not going to be easy but with hard work and focus, nothing is impossible.” Ojo Onaolapo
The performance in Glasgow attracted the attention of the Marcozzi Club in Italy, whom he joined in 2015, before moving to Portugal in 2016 to represent ADC Ponta Do Pargo in the elite Portuguese League.
Furthermore, he has impressed, since joining ADC Ponta Do Pargo in September, he has lost only three of his eleven matches and has helped guide the club to second place in the league behind Sporting Lisbon.
Undoubtedly, the successes in Portugal have given Ojo Onaolapo and injection of confidence but there is another reason; listed at no.25 on the current Men’s World Rankings, Quadri Aruna has set an example, he has raised the bar, he has motivated his compatriot.
“I think Quadri Aruna has raised our hopes; hard work and focus one can achieve whatever you desire in life. Now we don’t have any option other than to aim high because if Quadri Aruna can do it, there is nothing stopping any one else from attaining greater heights. Quadri Aruna has given everyone a lot of hope. If Quadri Aruna can beat some of the top players in the world, nothing stops us from emulating him; that is why in 2017, I am intending to attend at least five ITTF World Tours in Europe. It is easier for us now that we are playing in Europe unlike in the past that we had to travel from Nigeria to attend competitions”, Ojo Onaolapo
Ambitious and Ojo Onaolapo does have one ITTF World Tour title to his credit; in 2015 he won the Under 21 Men’s Singles title on home soil in Lagos.
“Having played in Italy, I can conclude that playing in Portugal is tougher with the quality of players in the league. I have learned playing against the likes of Quadri Aruna, André Silva and a host of others who are also plying their trade in the competitive French League. The Hungarian Open being my first World Tour outside the Lagos Open, I am hoping that I can go far in the competition. My immediate target is to qualify from the group and from there anything can happen”, Ojo Onalopao.
In Budapest, he lines up alongside colleagues Bode Abiodun, Quadri Aruna, Makanjuola Kazeem and Olajide Omotayo; he will partner Olajide Omotayo in the Men’s Doubles event.