by Simon Daish
Quadri Aruna has since won the 2017 ITTF-Africa Cup, become the first Nigerian to win a Men’s Singles title at an ITTF Challenge Series event, finished in the runner-up spot at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and won Men’s Singles gold at the 2018 ITTF-African Championships, not to mention the fact that he’s been named Nigerian Sportsman of the Year for two years on the bounce.
With the year’s end drawing ever nearer the attention is slowly beginning to shift towards Tokyo 2020 – in an interview with the official Olympic Games website Aruna is hungry for even more success on the Olympic stage, aiming to better his tremendous campaign from 2016.
“Like every athlete, I want to do better than I have done before. I want better results in Tokyo. I am always thinking about it. That’s why I am playing in more and more tournaments: it’s preparation for difficult matches in Tokyo.” Quadri Aruna
Seeded 27th for the Men’s Singles draw in Rio, Aruna saw off Wang Yang in his opening match before going on to claim sensational victories over no.5 seed Chuang Chih-Yuan and no.10 seed Timo Boll to reach the last eight of the competition, exiting to eventual champion Ma Long.
Looking back on the event Aruna revealed that he entered both of his encounters against Chuang Chih-Yuan and Timo Boll with little confidence, a trait commonly perceived in a negative light but in a rather roundabout way the Nigerian actually appeared to reap some benefit from the situation.
“I actually had no confidence against Chuang Chih-Yuan because earlier in January that year I lost in Germany in the first round 4-0 to him. So, in Rio I was like, “I have lost before, now I have nothing left to lose, he is a much better player than me.” So, I said to myself, “Just give your best, play and enjoy. Then I was able to win the first two sets and the match was a different spirit entirely. Against Timo Boll I was feeling the same way. I was aware the whole world was watching. But before Timo was able to understand my game, I was already 3-0 and it was really too late for him to come back.” Quadri Aruna
Two years on from Rio 2016, Aruna has seen the impact his historic outing has had on the sport in Nigeria and the blossoming of his own popularity throughout his home country.
“I was aware the whole world was watching, not just Nigeria and Africa. My performance in Rio really made table tennis much more popular in Nigeria. Whenever I am in the airport now so many officials recognise me now and on the streets, not just where I came from, so many people wave.” Quadri Aruna
You can read Quadri Aruna’s fascinating interview in full on the official Olympic Games website.