By Tony Ubani
Nigeria’s Segun Toriola has shot himself into the record books by becoming the first African to play in seven Olympic Games in any sport by picking a ticket to represent Nigeria at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
This uncommon record has also catapulted Toriola to the exclusive “7 Club” , the elite group of players who have played at seven Olympic Games.
With the 41-year-old’s 11-7, 12-10, 11-9, 11-6 win over Mawussi AG BETOGLO (TOG), in Khartoum, Sudan, Toriola joins table tennis legends Jean-Michel SAIVE (BEL), Jorgen PERSSON (SWE) & Zoran PRIMORAC (CRO) in an elite group of players who have played at seven Olympic Games.
An overwhelmed President of Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, Barrister Enitan Oshodi showered him with plaudits for his gallantry. “I’m very proud of him for his achievements for Nigeria. It is no mean feat to join the elite Club of players who have played in 7 different Olympics. By this record, he is Africa’s only man with such records. It goes with hard work and discipline. We’re indeed proud of him”, Oshodi, who brought a rapid transformation of the game in Nigeria, said.
After achieving the amazing feat, the four time All-African Games champion, who made his Olympic debut back at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games told ITTF: “I am very excited about this achievement, I never thought I could be playing a seventh Olympic Games in my career. I am honoured that I made history as the first African to achieve this feat.”
“It was a little difficult for me because I played under a lot of pressure, I was the favourite for this tournament, and I had to be cautious in my games as most of the players wanted to beat me. I ensured I was not too confident in all my matches and play them carefully.”
“I am glad that I made it and I hope now to focus on the preparation for Rio, which is very vital for me!”