By Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer
When Ojo Onaolapo made it to the quarterfinal of the boys’ singles at the 2010 World Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, it was clear that he is another Nigerian star in the making.
Four years later at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, he became the savior of Nigeria as he single-handedly won the bronze medal for Nigeria in the men’s team event after his historic win over highly-rated Indian star, Sharath Achanta.
This performance aided his movement to Italy where spent one season before moving to Portugal in 2016 where he now plies his trade with ADC Ponta Do Pargo.
After his last appearance for Nigeria at the 2016 World Team Championship in Malaysia, Ojo Onaolapo has not featured for his country. His recent resurgence in the Portuguese league may have prompted Nigeria to recall him to the Nigerian team.
An elated Ojo Onaolapo was quick to admit that he would utilize the opportunity handed to him again to be part of the strong Nigerian team to the 2017 ITTF World Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany.
“I am so happy that I have another opportunity to prove myself in this big arena. I will want to reenact my Commonwealth Games feat again by giving my 100 percent commitment to the team. I want to win back my fans by doing better than what I did at the 2014 Commonwealth Games,” he said.
Having listed in the Nigerian team to the 2012, 2014 and 2016 World Team Championships, Ojo Onaolapo will be making his debut at the individual World Championship in Germany and he is aware of the quality of players expected at the tournament by saying, “This is a big tournament and the best players in the world are expected in Germany. I want to play better and justify my inclusion in the Nigerian team,” he added.
“Nigerian team is among the best in the world considering the quality of the players in the team. Players are selected based on merit and recent performance. You are not selected based on your previous performance but based on your current outing and this makes it more difficult for any player to make the team,” Ojo Onaolapo explained.
However, the 24-year-old believes the respect commanded by his compatriot – Aruna Quadri has always boosted his confidence whenever he is featuring in an international competition.
“My target is to qualify from the group before thinking of the next thing. But I must say that Aruna Quadri has shown us the way to beat the best in the game. He has made us realized that anything is possible as long as you remain focus and work hard. His humility and dedication to the sport are among the lessons I have picked from Aruna Quadri. So for me, I fear nobody and I look forward to a good outing as anything is possible in table tennis,” the 2015 U-21 Lagos Open Champion.
In his first season in the Portuguese league, Ojo Onaolapo admitted that playing in Portugal has improved his game while he has gained more confidence playing against the best. “I played one season in Italy and I think the Italian league is good for beginners and it is a stepping stone to bigger league in Europe. The structure in Italy is good and the standard is high but the quality of players in Portugal cannot be compared to the ones in Italy. We have fantastic players in the Portuguese league and this makes it more competitive and challenging for players like us,” he said.