Ojo Onaolapo is no stranger to big occasion.
He saved Nigeria at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games when his unexpected victory over highly-rated India’s Sharath Achanta fetched the country the bronze medal won by the men’s team at the tournament.
Onaolapo, 21, made the cut for the nine-man team to the 2015 African Games told NationSport yesterday that his inclusion in the team will be meaningful in Congo Brazzaville.
“I think I see it as a rare privilege to be part of the Nigerian team to the African Games especially to be in same team with great players like Segun Toriola and Aruna Quadri. For me I must utilize this chance to prove what I am capable of doing. There is no doubt that Egyptians are our main challengers in Brazzaville and I am confident that with the kind of training we have been and the spirit in camp, we can turn the table against the North Africans. I won’t be going to the games to add to the number but to make the kind of impact I made during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games to help the team win the men’s event. I am sure we can dethrone Egypt in the men’s team with the quality of players in our team,” he said.
Acknowledging the task of making the team, he said: “I must tell you that it was not that easy making the final list of players to the games. The presence of former champions like Monday Merotohun and Kazeem Nosiru as well as others really made it tasking this year because for you to prove yourself, you must be able to beat champions. So for me, I knew I had to be at my best during the trials and I thank God that I made the cut. My focus now is on the games and I hope I can be at my best in Brazzaville.”
The former junior national champion however, expressed his delight over the engagement of the German tactician, who is expected to arrive this weekend to start working with the team. “I am happy that we are having such quality of coach to be part of the team. We hope he can help us to correct some of our mistakes before the games and his presence will also motivate us to do well. We are looking forward to working with him and we hope his experience can help us greatly at the games,” Onaolapo said.
Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer