Edem Offiong…A modest ambition in Dusseldorf

Edem Offiong

By Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer

As a former African champion, Edem Offiong enjoyed the treatment accorded to a star but her reign was halted at the 2015 African Games in Congo Brazzaville by the eventual champion, Dina Meshref of Egypt.

Since then, she has been looking for an avenue to reclaim her place in the continent. However, she still has to wait for some months when the African Cup holds this year to see how things will pan out for her.

In few weeks, the hurdle before the Portugal-based Nigerian is to corner her way into the main draw of the 2017 World Championship in Dusseldorf, Germany.

“My targets at the World Championships are to play my very best, make myself and my country proud. Also I want to enjoy every bit of the atmosphere, relaxation and the best hot springs in Düsseldorf. I cannot really say how far I will go in the competition but I know if I happen to qualify from the group stage, I will definitely go further,” Edem Offiong said.

Recalling her best outing at the Championship, she said: “I think I played my best at the World Championship in Paris, France. I played so well even despite losing early but I was satisfied with my performance. 

For her, playing in Germany would surely be an awesome experience. “I am super excited and I cannot just wait to get there because it is going to be an exciting tournament for most players. Also, we will be playing for the first time in a black surface DHS table tennis board.”

Explaining her expectation, she said: “I expect to do more this year because I am in my best shape. I had trained so well even though training is always different and difficult sometime. I always train and begin specific preparation at least six weeks prior to major tournament. Training is heavy and hard work as it doesn’t give me any specific high or pleasure however, it just has to be done. And with all of this, I believe this year I am going achieve more.”

 

 

Ronald MUGWANYA…a Ugandan honoured in Paris

Ronald Mugwanya2012

By Olalekan Okusan

What started as a hobby for Uganda’s Ronald MUGWANYA has now earned him accolade in his base in Paris, France.

At a colourful ceremony held in Paris on March 29, Paris, Ronald MUGWANYA was one of the elected candidates in the Paris Sports Awards organized by the City’s Olympic Committee.

Ronald MUGWANYA received the trophy of the Male Match Official of the year while other athletes, teams and Olympic medalists at the 2016 Rio Games were honoured.

To win the award, Ronald Mugwanya was nominated by the Paris Table Tennis Committee, after the Ugandan presented his resume.

As one of the blue badge umpires in Africa, Ronald Mugwanya has officiated in many World Championships, World Cups, top French league matches, European Champion Leagues and Olympic Games.

The Ugandan attributed the honour to his commitment to the sport while expressing his appreciation to the French for accepting his when he arrived the country in 2003 as a young African.

An elated Ronald MUGWANYA thanked the organizers for recognizing him alongside top athletes and officials.

He also extended his appreciation to his mother association, the Uganda Table Tennis Association (UTTA) for constantly nominating him to the World’s Prestigious events, the French Table Tennis Federation for local and European assignments but also to the Paris Table Tennis Committee and to his Club, Esperance de Reuilly for all the support they have always provided to him. He lastly thanked the International Table Tennis Federation for always trusting him with such huge responsibilities and his family for all the support.

Mugwanya is also an umpire trainer under the ITTF development Program and has conducted courses in Haiti, Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, Mauritius, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Swaziland, Uganda and Bhutan in Asia. He is a member of humanitarian sports organization called Ping Sans Frontières which develops education through table tennis in less privileged countries in the world and priority areas in France.

In his 15 years career as a table tennis official, the father of four changed from teaching to social work, while pledging his commitment to table tennis.

His next assignment is the World Series Japan Open, Tokyo 14 – 18 June 2017.

 

Ojo Onaolapo…on redemption mission in Dusseldorf

 

Nigeria's Ojo Onaolapo serves the ball to India's Kamal Sharath Achanta (unseen) during their Bronze Medal Team table tennis match at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 28, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC

Nigeria’s Ojo Onaolapo serves the ball to India’s Kamal Sharath Achanta during their Bronze Medal Team table tennis match at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 28, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC

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.  

 

Olufunke Oshonaike…aiming to inscribe footprint in Dusseldorf

 

Funke Oshonaike

By Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer

In table tennis globally, Olufunke Oshonaike of Nigeria holds the record as the only female player to have featured in six Olympic Games after her appearance at Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The African champion who is based in Hamburg, Germany is also the most decorated female table tennis player in Africa having won more medals at the African Games than any player in the continent.

Savouring the experience of playing at the 2017 World Championship in Dusseldorf in May, the mother of two said: “Playing any competing in Germany is like playing in China or Japan because these are the best teams in the world. In Europe, Germany is a table tennis loving country and playing any competition in this country is always awesome. Particularly with the ever-supporting fans that are always present to cheer the players regardless of the team such players are playing for. I am eagerly looking forward to the tournament because it is also the assemblage of the best in the world. I cannot wait to compete in Dusseldorf,” she said.

Describing her outing at the 2015 edition as the best outing for her in all her participations in the competition, adding that what made her experience in China was facing the eventual champion, China’s Ding Ning in the first round of the women’s singles. “I think my experience in 2015 in China was my best outing in the competition. I made it from the qualifiers to the main draw and unfortunately I had to face Ding Ning in the first round. It was a good experience for me and particularly with the cheers from the Chinese fans. I enjoyed the moment and I am also looking forward to a good outing in Germany this year,” she added.

She said that her target in Dusseldorf was to exceed her 2015 performance which she however, admitted was a tall order. “At 42, people are always asking me when I will quit but I know when I am to leave the stage because for now my body is still carrying me and I also train very well particularly playing with my club in the second division of the Bundesliga. I am hoping that I can do better than 2015 in Dusseldorf. Although it is a tough challenge for me and I know it is possible with good draws,” the Team Nigeria flagbearer to Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

For more than 10 years, Olufunke Oshonaike has been living in Hamburg with her family.

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.

Chairman’s New Year Message

hny

Dear Members

I hope you all have enjoyed your Christmas break, and are looking forward to the New Year.

This message gives me an opportunity to give you an update on the current events relating to the Commonwealth Table Tennis Federation.

  1. A) Commonwealth World Championships 2017

Scotland are continuing to work on their bid to stage the Commonwealth Championships in 2017.  Their attempt to host the Championships in Glasgow have not been successful due to the costs.  Scotland have been in detailed discussions with Aberdeen, but without a result.  Now, they are making good progress with their capital city Edinburgh, who staged the Championships in 1979.

Scotland have invited me to visit Edinburgh on 11 January 2017 to inspect the venue and to discuss their potential bid.  The proposed dates are 6 – 11 June 2017, immediately following the World Championships in Dusseldorf.

The timelines for the bid are now very short.  For this to be reviewed by the Board, a full application needs to be received and considered by the end of January 2017.  I will keep you informed of developments.

  1. B) Commonwealth Games Gold Coast 2018

Neither the ITTF nor ourselves have any further information about the Games in 2018 since our meeting in Kuala Lumpar, earlier this year.  However, the Commonwealth Games Federation are keeping in touch with the National Commonwealth Games Associations in every country, who in turn will liaise with the selected sports.  There will be a full update at our meeting in Dusseldorf.

  1. C) General Meeting

The will be a General Meeting of the Commonwealth Federation in Dusseldorf as part of the World Championship, as usual.

I have been in contact with the ITTF regarding this and the exact date is not known at this time.  Once we have the full ITTF meeting list, we can schedule our meetings to avoid any clashes with Continental and Committee meetings where our delegates or members are invited to attend, as far as this is possible.  If you have any matters for the agenda, or rule change propositions, please forward these to me as soon as possible.

Finally, I would like to wish you, your family and all your members a very prosperous and successful 2017.

Oshonaike becomes African champion again

african-women-champion

Several years after ruling the continent, Nigeria’s Olufunke Oshonaike yesterday turned the clock back to emerge as the new African champion in the women’s single event of the 2016 ITTF Africa Senior Championships in Agadir, Morocco.

As the second seeded player in the competition, Oshonaike has never beaten the young Egyptian in the last two years but the tide turned in favour of the Nigerian as she North Africa tasted the first defeat in the continent to surrender the title.

From the start of the encounter, Oshonaike took charge taking a 2-0 lead but the Egyptian restored parity at 2-2.

Oshonaike then decided to play with a lot of caution and tactics which eventual confused her opponent who finally succumbed to the more experienced Nigeria.

  To emerge as the new African Champion, Oshonaike won (7-11, 11-13, 11-5, 11-9, 7-11, 7-11).

  An elated Oshonaike told NationSport after the encounter that she never doubted her ability. “I knew it was going to be tough because being the African champion and she has been unbeaten in the last two year. I just told myself to go out there and have fun and show my experience and when it started working I gained more confidence. But when the match was 2-2 my coach, Segun Toriola told me not to give up and I kept on going and it worked for me at last. This victory means a lot to me that I can still become African champion despite my age. It shows that nothing is possible regardless of age inasmuch as you put your mind at it. I am so happy despite the challenges of making it to Morocco. I feel great and I am so excited that I can still do it and this is also an inspiration for girls that no matter your age, you can achieve whatever you put your mind into in life,” she said.

  Aruna Quadri succumbed to Egypt’s Assar in men’s singles final. From the start of the match, the fans were not disappointed with the display by the two best players in Africa with the powerful shot of Aruna Quadri thrilling the fans, while Omar Assar was also up to the task against the Nigerian.

It was the Egyptian who drew the first blood with 12-10 win. But Aruna Quadri restored parity with 11-6 win.

  The quality of the match gave the spectators something to cheer but it was Omar Assar that carried the day with a 4-3 (10-12, 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-9) win to retain his title.

  An elated Omar Assar told NationSport after the match, “It was really a crazy match becuause against Aruna is always very exciting. I think I gave my 100 per cent concentration and I was listen more to my coach, Helmy Ashraf. I think Aruna played very well because he was always changing service and he was more aggressive on his forehand. I am so happy retaining the title and I hope I can play better than this in future tournament,” Assar said.

 

Aruna Quadri gets nomination for 2016 ITTF Star Awards

quadriplay

Few days after missing out from the men’s singles title at the just concluded ITTF Africa Senior Championship in Morocco, Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri has been nominated among the four short-listed players for the 2016 ITTF Star Awards.

In a statement issued by the world table tennis ruling body, International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), Quadri, a fomer winner of the awards in 2014 will jostle for the male awards alongside world and Olympic champion, China’s Ma Long, World Cup Champion, China’s FAN Zhendong as well as Rio Olympic bronze medalist, Japan’s Jun MIZUTANI.

According to ITTF the winners will be crowned at the 2016 ITTF Star Awards in Doha, Qatar on December 8, 2016.

The 2016 ITTF Star Awards, which will be in its fourth edition, will be held at the Doha’s famous and prestigious Sheraton Hotel to celebrate the world’s best table tennis players’ achievements in 2016.

Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA) President & ITTF Deputy President Khalil AL-MOHANNADI stated: “On behalf of QTTA, I am excited to be hosting the celebrations for the world’s best table tennis players in Doha, Qatar. QTTA have very elaborate plans for the 2016 ITTF Star Awards and everyone in attendance and fans around the world watching on TV will surely enjoy the show we have planned to honor the most important people in our sport, the athlete’s and their achievements in 2016”

The nominees for the Male Table Tennis Star presented by DHS, as nominated by the ITTF Athletes’ Commission:

Quadri ARUNA (NGR): First ever African Olympic Games Quarterfinalist. Highest ever world ranked African player at 25 in the world; FAN Zhendong (CHN): 2016 Men’s World Cup champion, 2016 World Team Champion, two 2016 ITTF World Tour Super Series titles; MA Long (CHN): Rio 2016 Olympic Games Singles and Team Champion, 2016 World Team Champion, two 2016 ITTF World Tour Super Series titles and Jun MIZUTANI (JPN): Rio 2016 Olympic Games Singles Bronze Medalist and Team Silver Medalist, 2016 World Team Championships Silver Medalist, three 2016 ITTF World Tour titles.

The nominees Female Table Tennis Star presented by Nittaku, as nominated by the ITTF Athletes’ Commission:

DING Ning (CHN): Rio 2016 Olympic Games Singles and Team Champion, 2016 World Team Champion, two 2016 ITTF World Tour Super Series titles; Miu HIRANO (JPN): 2016 Women’s World Cup Champion, 2016 ITTF World Tour Polish Open Champion; Mima ITO (JPN): Rio 2016 Olympic Games Team Bronze Medalist which made her the Youngest ever table tennis Olympic Medalist, 2016 World Team Championships Silver Medalist and Kim SONG-I (PRK): Rio 2016 Olympic Games SinglesBronzeMedalist, 2016 World Team Championships Bronze Medalist, 2016 ITTF World Tour Pyongyang Open Champion

In addition to the Male and Female Table Tennis Stars, six other awards will be handed in Doha and they are Male Para Table Tennis Star presented by Tinsue, Female Para Table Tennis Star presented by Stag International, Table Tennis Star Coach presented by Butterfly, Table Tennis Star Point presented by Seamaster, Table Tennis Breakthrough Star presented by Monday Club and Table Tennis Fair Play Star.

 

quadri-award

ITTF Africa celebrates Aruna Quadri’s Rio Olympic feat 

For becoming the first player in Africa to make it to the quarterfinal stage of the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, the executive council of International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Africa has acknowledged the feat of the Nigerian with an award of outstanding performance.

The presentation of the award was performed by the ITTF Africa President, Khaled El-Salhy including Vice President of ITTF, Cherif Hajem.

The ITTF boss said it was coincident that two Nigerians – Segun Toriola and Aruna Quadri put Africa on the world map in Rio and for this, the Executive Committee agreed at their meeting that the two players must be acknowledged and honour in order to motivate upcoming players to aim high like them.

“We were overwhelmed with the huge publicity that Africa got in the table tennis event of Rio Olympic Games because of the performance of Aruna Quadri because in the history of table tennis, no African has made it to the last eight of the Olympic Games. Players like Aruna Quadri are very rare and I know his performance was due to his commitment and hardwork which were obvious in his performance. This honour is not just to celebrate him but to also inspire other players to work hard because without hardwork and discipline it will be impossible for any player to make it to the world stage,” he said.

“From his performance at the 2014 World Cup in Germany where he became the first African to make it to the quarterfinal round of the competition to being named the 2014 ITTF Star Player at the Star Award, Aruna Quadri has raised the bar for others to aim at and with his performance of record, more people in the continent are now paying attention to the sport and we hope he will continue to move up and other African players will

ITTF Africa honours Toriola, tasks players to emulate Nigerian star

toriola

For his exemplary lifestyle on and off the table the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Africa has joined the league of those impressed with the feat achieved by Nigeria’s Segun Toriola at the Olympic Games as the first athlete to attend seven Olympics from the continent.

At the colourful ceremony held during the ongoing ITTF Africa Senior Championships, Toriola who is the most decorated table tennis player in Africa was given a plaque by the President of ITTF Africa, Khaled El-Salhy assisted by a member of ITTF Africa Executive Board and the President of Morocco Table Tennis Federation, Monqid Hajji.

According to ITTF Africa boss, it was the decision of the Executive Council of ITTF Africa to honour Toriola for putting the continent on the world map as the first athlete in any sports in Africa to feature in seven Olympic Games.

“It was the decision of the Executive Council EC to give such award to Segun Toriola, who is a legend of Table Tennis not only in Africa but also in the World following his great achievement of being the first African to make seven appearances at the Olympic Games from 1992 to 2016. WE also we believe that he has the chance to break his own record by making it to Tokyo 2020, which the quality he still possesses,” El-Salhy said.

For upcoming players, the ITTF Africa helmsman believes Toriola would serves as a role model for young players in Africa with his 100 per cent commitment to the sport on and off the table.

“Toriola commitment to table tennis is 100 per cent and this is why he will remain an inspiration to young players in Africa. He is also an ambassador of Table Tennis when it comes to fair play. His excellent performance at every competition coupled with his humility are traits that singled him out among other players in Africa ,” El-Salhy added.

 

 

Byrone Abrahams…an exciting star aiming for top

byrone-abrahams-2   

At 18, Byrone Abrahams had tasted what it meant to play against the best in Africa. But at junior level, he is yet to test might with the world best and for him, the forthcoming ITTF World Junior Championships would afford the young South African star to show his quality.

Byrone Abrahams, who was part of the South African team to the last ITTF Africa Senior Championships held in Agadir, Morocco is yet to come to terms with the fact that the world best will be coming to his home country to compete for honours at the World Juniors.

“It is unexplainable feeling because my dream is coming true and at this moment I still can’t believe that I am going to play in the World Junior Championships. So it is very hard to explain the emotions that I am feeling. It means a lot because I’m one of the few people in the country that gets to wear the national colours so I wear it with pride. It also means that I’m one of the best in the country and I am representing those players that were not chosen to be in the team,” Abrahams said.

Explaining his expectations for the tournament, he said: “I am looking forward with huge excitements to this competition because this is the highest level of table tennis at junior level and I have been dreaming to play against the best because there is a saying that says “to be the best you should play with the best.”

On his level of readiness, Abrahams said: “I am well prepared for the tournament as I have been training very hard and playing many local tournaments but I need to work more on my tactical side of my game.”

Explaining the feeling in his family as a member of the South African team, he said: “My family is very proud of me and my friend look at me as a hero because I’m showing them that dreams can come true. My family is proud that they can boast about me as they see me as a future star wearing the national colours.”

Abrahams is optimistic of their chances in all the events, saying, “I am sure we can win medals because table tennis is an unpredictable game as anything can happen. We will take it one match at a time and give it our best as we are used to the conditions of Cape Town so we don’t need to adapt to the altitude so it gives us the advantage.”
On the uniqueness of the championship, “It is unique because I’m getting a chance to play the best players in the world. This is my first world championships and I will get a chance to prove myself and put South Africa under the spotlight of the table tennis world,” he added.

Giving an insight into his personal target, Abrahams said: “Realistically speaking, my target for the South African team is that we make it to the top eight in the world but we are going for a medal and for the singles event, my target is top 16 in the world anything more is a bonus.”

“My experience of being a member of the senior team will help during the competition because I’m getting to play at a high level of table tennis and it will automatically increase my level and in my mind it is the best preparation for the world junior championships. It will also help with my leadership skills to lead my team to a possible medal. I want to play to the best of my ability and to improve as it would be the highest level of table tennis as it will also expose the sport more to people in my country,” Abrahams said.