by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
In Rabat, the 24 year old exceeded all expectations, at the quarter-final stage of the men’s singles event he accounted for Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh, before ending the hopes of colleague Segun Toriola and Quadri Aruna to seal the title; in Gondomar both Segun Toriola and Quadri Aruna appear on the team sheet as does Bode Abiodun alongside Taiwo Mati.
A challenge met in Rabat, the challenge in Gondomar is just as demanding. At the ZEN-NOH 2019 Team World Cup in Tokyo, Nigeria finished in third place in their initial phase group behind China and Chinese Taipei. Now at the 2020 ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament, Nigeria occupies the no.14 seeded position.
Only nine places available for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, it is tough task but in the past Nigeria has proved an ability to respond. Memorably, without Quadri Aruna in the selection, they beat England to reach the men’s team final at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Aware of task
Olajide Omotayo is aware of the huge task ahead at an event that could prove a watershed in his career.
“It’s a difficult task ahead of us but we have what it takes to qualify. Nigeria is ranked number 16 in the world; I know with time we will get better and better.
I have never featured at any Olympics in my life; this will be the first time I am even going to play at any Olympic qualification tournament. Playing at the Olympic Games means a lot to me because it is the biggest sporting event on this planet and I have always dreamt of participating at the Olympics since I was child.
Now that I have the opportunity to play at the qualification tournament, I’m going to give it my all and make sure I give my 100 per cent best. I have been putting in a lot of work ever since I moved to Belgium National Training Center in Blegny. The members of the team are also ready to put up a good fight in Portugal.
My target is to improve my standard and attend more tournaments as possible. I must also admit that table tennis has given a lot in terms of exposure; an opportunity to have a better life and also self-discipline. I have travelled to so many countries and also have the privilege to have friends almost everywhere I go.”