Ahead of 2017 ITTF World Championships: African legend eyes another milestone appearance

 

Segun Toriola

In the history of table tennis in Africa, Segun Toriola (NGR) stands out among crowd. His records are yet to be rivaled while he remains the only athlete in Africa to have featured in seven Olympic Games.

Since 1991 in Chiba, Japan, when Segun Toriola made his debut as a teenager in the World Championship, he has taken part in virtually all the world championships except Goteborg 1993, Manchester 1997 and Paris 2013

Segun Toriola who is the most successful table tennis player in Africa will be wearing the colours of Nigeria at the 2017 World Table Tennis Championship in Dusseldorf, Germany from May 29 to June 5 and the France-based star believes playing in Germany is the dream of every player.

“One thing that is unique about playing any competition is Germany is that, the country is one of the best table tennis playing nations in the world. Aside China in Asia, Germany remains the home of table tennis in Europe. The standard coupled with the quality of players plying their trade in the German league speaks volume of what to expect in Dusseldorf. My last World Championship in Germany was in Dortmund 2012 during the World Team Championship. The atmosphere at the venue is always exciting for every player. There is no dull moment when playing in Germany and that is why German Open is one of the World Tours that players are always eager to compete in,” the 42-year-old said.

The former African champion who had spent most of his professional career in Europe describes world championship as the second most important competition in the ITTF Calendar after the Olympic Games.

“It is the dream of every table tennis player to take part in the world championship because it is the assembly of the best players in the world. Some players who never had the chance to play at the Olympic Games see the world championship as an avenue to showcase their talent to the world. Also the spirit at the world championship cannot be compared to any other competition because it brings together the best and the quality of play is superb,” he said.

Recalling his maiden appearance in Chiba 1991, the former Commonwealth gold medalist said: “Chiba was my first world championship and I was a junior player in the Nigerian team. But I surprised everybody at the tournament as an unranked player where I defeated Philippe Saive of Belgium. It was my first experience and I enjoyed every moment I spent in Japan because I played very well beyond the expectations of a lot of people. Being a junior player, I wanted to prove myself and this really boosted my confidence,” said Segun Toriola.

At the 2015 World Championship in Suzhou, China, Segun Toriola worked his way to the main draw before being edged out 4-3 by Chinese Taipei’s Sheng-Shen Huang, and the Nigerian star believes he still has a lot to offer in the game when the championships serve off on May 29.

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