by Simon Daish
Olufunke Oshonaike has demonstrated that she still has what it takes to compete with Africa’s strongest table tennis competitors and she deservedly won her third Women’s Singles title at the Africa Senior Championships in 2016.
While many athletes may consider calling a time on their sporting careers when they reach their 40s, Olufunke Oshonaike told SHOT! that she doesn’t believe that age should hinder her involvement in the sport and the 41-year-old will only bring her playing career to a close when she stops enjoying her time on the table.
“Whoever is into a sport and leaves suddenly must have a reason. It could be due to an injury or maybe they are not enjoying what they are doing or some other reason. Right now, I still enjoy what I am doing and my children and family are encouraging me. I have happiness and joy from it. Now, I have a new found love, taking care of the young players. Maybe I will retire soon. But, right now, I’m still having fun with what I am doing”, Olufunke Oshonaike.
Alongside her playing career Olufunke Oshonaike is also attempting to build a brighter future for Nigerian table tennis through the work of the Funke Oshonaike foundation.
Delivering coaching and training clinics Oshonaike is helping some of the country’s young aspiring stars to reach their full potential, and the six-time Olympian stated that she wants to provide her pupils with all of the knowledge that she has gained over her long and fruitful career.
“Sport in Nigeria now is different from when I started. Back then, every month, we went for one competition or the other. Now, it’s hard for them to have competition every three or four months. Instead of coming to the country and complaining about how they are doing things here, I felt I could make an impact. I decided to bring my Hamburg to Nigeria by giving back to the young ones, the talent God has given me, so as to encourage them. A lot of them are frustrated and many have given up. Yet, a whole lot of them are talented. The kids make me happy. I am 100 percent happy about it”, Olufunke Oshonaike.
However, while the coaching clinics have proven to be a tremendous success Oshonaike believes that she requires more backing from sponsorship to ensure that her pupils are given the best possible chance of lifting Nigeria to the next level.
“I have just finished the first phase of the clinic and I am thinking of the second phase by July or August. I can’t do it alone without sponsors. If I get enough funds and sponsorship, no problem. My dream is to get a better me in the next two years, somebody that will take over from Quadri Aruna. My dream is to ensure that my foundation produces another Quadri Aruna and Segun Toriola”, Olufunke Oshonaike.
Appearances at six consecutive Olympic Games with her debut coming back at Atlanta 1996 Olufunke Oshonaike has most certainly enjoyed a lengthy and prosperous time in the sport, and her aim for the future is to represent her country at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“Why not? I don’t know what is going to happen. But right now, I still feel good, fit and my body isn’t telling me to stop, then, I will still go”, Olufunke Oshonaike.