by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer
However, if there is any player who can extract positives from defeat, there are few better than Ojo Onaolapo.
Also, he is a player with a point to prove; in 2016 he was not selected for the Nigerian national team at either the Perfect World Championships or the Rio Olympic Games. He hopes to work his way back into the team with hard work and discipline.
“I know if I continue going to competitions from time to time, I will reclaim my place back in the national team. I just have to keep going to tournaments because I now realise that the tournament arena is different to the club, so I need to keep going to ITTF World Tour”, Ojo Onaolapo
Disappointment in Budapest where it was third place in the group; in addition to losing to Jiang Tianyi (11-8, 11-4, 11-6, 11-5), Ojo Onaolapo was beaten by Italy’s Matteo Mutti (11-8, 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-8).
“In most of the matches, I was leading only to lose. The rackets my opponents were using were not the ones I was used to; apart from the defeat, I think I learned a lot from taking part in the competition. It makes me believe that nothing is impossible and I got to know the latest in table tennis around the world”, Ojo Onaolapo
Wiser for the experience; establishing a place in the Nigerian national team is well within his grasp but there is strong competition for places; a fact of which the young man is well aware.
“From the quality of players we have in Nigeria coupled with the competiveness of the team, it is now very hard to make the team. You need to prove that you are worthy to be in the team. You must also be disciplined to be part of the team which has quality and disciplined players like Segun Toriola and Quadri Aruna”, Ojo Onaolapo
Undoubtedly, Quadri Aruna led the line for Africa in Budapest. He reached the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles event and came within a whisker of a semi-final place.
He accounted for Germany’s Steffen Mengel (8-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6, 10-12, 11-8) and the Czech Republic’s Tomas Konecny (8-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-13, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8), only experiencing defeat by the minimal two point margin in opposition to Ruwen Filus, also from Germany (11-9, 14-12, 2-11, 11-9, 6-11, 4-11, 12-10)
“Seeing Quadri Aruna playing and winning against some of the top players will make people realise that Africa can do it; his performance gives me confidence that nothing is impossible in table tennis. It is just hard work and ensuring that I attend tournaments regularly. Also, I noticed that Quadri Aruna plays strong while he moves. He fights for every point; this is a quality I must follow.”
Most certainly Quadri Aruna has motivated Ojo Onaolapo.
“I intend to play in the competitions in Luxembourg and Slovenia before the World Championships; what I believe is that if I keep focusing and attending tournaments, whilst also performing very well, I think I can be a regular in the Nigerian national team”, Ojo Onaolapo.
Will Ojo Onaolapo gain a place in the Nigerian national team on a regular basis? perhaps that question will be answered in Luxembourg and Slovenia.