Byrone Abrahams…an exciting star aiming for top


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.


Quadri is Africa’s pride at Rio – ATTF

Quadri 1

The continent is still celebrating the feat achieved by Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri at the ongoing Rio 2016 Olympic Games, President of African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), Khaled El-Salhy believes the 2014 ITTF Star Player is a pride to Africa in Brazil.

He added that the heroic performance of Aruna Quadri is a confirmation of Africa’s relevance in global table tennis.

“I must admit that all the African players did their best in the singles, while the extra ordinary outcome was through Aruna Quadri for his superb performance against the top ITTF ranked players like Chinese Taipei’s CHUANG Chih-Yuan and Germany’s Timo BOLL. In my opinion the achievement of Aruna Quadri in Rio will be of great impact to Africa and all players as well as help to break all barriers, raising the ceiling of ambitious player at all World and Olympic title events regardless of their opponents,” the ATTF boss said.

He added: “Simply, Aruna Quadri is perfect, full of energy and trust his skills with good preparation. He also put his mind in the game to fly the flag of Nigeria and Africa in such Olympic Games.”

On what young players can emulate from Quadri, he said: “They have to follow the foot step of Aruna Quadri in terms of preparation, dedication in training and with this nothing is impossible.”

By Olalekan Okusan


My Rio feat belongs to Africa, says Aruna Quadri

ARUNA Quadri
When Aruna Quadri was named the 2014 ITTF Star Player, many were skeptical about the skills of the Oyo State-born athlete. As a self-made athlete, Quadri didn’t give up. He continued to sponsor himself to major competitions across the globe and his performance caught the eye of the President of Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Wahid Oshodi, who began to support the ambitious player. His performance also attracted top clubs in Europe and he settled for a French club, Jura Morez, where he single-handedly saved the team from relegation last season.

His belief in Nigeria, despite lack of support, made him turn down a juicy offer from oil-rich Qatar. This showed his patriotic zeal and he promptly earned applause for his decision. His perseverance paid off at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, beating players rated above him. He became an instant hit, while those who didn’t reckon with him, have now finally embraced him. Apart from being the first African to feature in the quarterfinal of the men’s singles of table tennis event of the Olympic Games, Aruna Quadri remains the only player from the Commonwealth to make it to the last eight at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Many are also speaking glowingly about Quadri’s exploits in Brazil as the first African to make it to the quarter-final round of the table tennis event at the Olympic Games. He also said he was not surprised by his performance, but he was stunned he made it to the last eight of the men’s singles, dedicating the feat to the African continent.

An excited Quadri said after the Rio feat that, “I feel so happy playing at the quarter-final of the Olympic Games. It is like a dream come true and I am very happy and satisfied with my performance in Rio and I must say that the achievement belongs to all African federations and players and it is not just a personal feat.”

Narrating his mission in Rio, he said: “Initially, I came here just to enjoy myself because I knew the qualities of players that qualified for the games. Apart from the Chinese, all other participants had 50–50 chances against one another and for that reason I was a bit relaxed and started playing without pressure. Also I had it in my mind that I am not in Rio just to add to the number of participants but to make an impact. I must also say that my qualification to the quarter-final stage is as a result of my hard work and the success just came at the right time of my birthday. I strongly believe I have the potential but I was not expecting to have qualified for quarter-final and I was optimistic but it was not going to be easy.”

“I had difficulties in playing against defenders and winning against the Slovak Chinese-born Yang Wang, who is a defender increased my confidence and that motivated me to do better in subsequent matches. The coaches, teammates, friends and family as well as the president of Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) contributed immensely to my good outing in Rio and I will like to thank everyone that contributed to this great journey of my career,” he added.

Recalling his feeling during the matches, he said: “After the victory against the world number seven, Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan, my mind was totally free that Germany’s Timo Boll will also fall if I confronted him in the fourth round. I had to play the German the same way I played against Chuang Chih-Yuan and this boosted my confidence throughout the competition. So I felt great after the matches because playing against these world class players was like a dream come true. I was actually looking up to some of these players particularly whenever I am watching their videos.”

He, however, lamented the idea of training in Nigeria before the games but said: “Training in Nigeria did not help my situation in Rio but my 10-month experience in Portugal and France with different coaches helped me a lot. Also Segun Toriola helped me as well by telling me the weaknesses of every opponent because he is familiar with most of them. In training, Toriola’s advice really helped me to change my tactics positively and he was always there for me

Toriola helped me in training and his advice really changed my tactics positively. I can confirm that I have gained a lot from his wealth of experience and seeing him, while playing added to my confidence. I can say that Toriola is a great legend of the sport.

On his quarter-final loss to world number one, China’s Ma Long, the 2014 ITTF Star Player said: “I was not disappointed with my performance against Ma Long because I had nothing to lose against him and I was not really scared of him. In the first instance, he is a much better player but I did not put that in my mind before the match started. I took on Ma Long the way I confronted my previous opponents. But Ma Long was too strong for me as I could not respond very well but I strongly believed that when next I play against him I will win one set at least.”

For his heroic feat, Quadri became the toast of the Brazilian fans and this he described as encouraging, “I must say that the Brazilians showed me love and they always motivated and encouraged me that I could do it. The kind of support I got from them is like the support I am always getting in my home country. They kept me going whenever I was losing hope by echoing my name. They made me feel at home and I remain grateful to them for this.”

Quadri is eagerly looking forward to the new ranking, which he said: “This is a new positive improvement and I am waiting for the next world ranking. When I rose to top 30 two years ago, I was under serious pressure to maintain my ranking because it had never happened to me. After some time the pressure went away and I am now getting used to playing under pressure. But this time around I am not going to be playing under pressure in order to maintain my new status. I also need more support to play more tournaments so that I can keep my place in the world ranking without dropping down the ladder. I am fully ready to work harder than before and may God continue to crown all my efforts with successes,” Quadri added.

Quadri who will be representing Africa at the ITTF World Cup in Germany come |October believes attending Rio Olympic Games is part of his build up to the global tournament.

“Every tournament is like preparing for another tournament and my performance in Rio has really boosted my confidence that I can do better at the World Cup. My World Cup preparation has started at the Rio Olympic Games and I have been able to test my ability against the world’s best. It is just two months to the championship, I will prepare better when I get to my club in Europe. I strongly believe that my best is yet to come and I am praying for luck and getting favourable draw in Germany. I strongly believe that I can still do better than before,” he explained.

He, however, said that he hopes that his Rio outing would inspire more African players to aim for medal at global level. My performance in Rio will surely boost the confidence level of many African players to do so much better in future. I strongly believe that there will be rapid improvement in Africa soon and more talents will come through in the continent. We have great talents in almost everywhere in Africa and very soon we will all see them.”
For Quadri, his cherish moment in Rio was claiming victory against former world number one, Germany’s Timo Boll.

By Olalekan Okusan

ITTF inducts Segun Toriola into ‘7 Club’ at Rio

Award 1ITTF President, Thomas Weikert; Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive; inductee, Nigeria’s Segun Toriola and Croatia’s Zoran Primorac at the award presentation by ITTF to Toriola in Rio on Friday August 12, 2016

Even when his efforts are not recognised by Nigeria, the custodian of table tennis globally has officially inducted Segun Toriola into the 7’ Club at the Olympic Games, as the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has described the African legend as a global brand that deserved honour by the world table tennis ruling body. Toriola is the first African athlete in any sport to feature in seven Olympic Games following his presence at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Speaking at the celebration organised to honour the most decorated table tennis player in Africa, ITTF President, Thomas Wiekert believes the feat achieved by the Nigerian should be an inspiration to athletes across the world particularly in Africa.

At the colourful presentation held at the Riocentro Pavilion 3 in Rio, Toriola was joined by three other table tennis stars that have competed in seven Olympic Games; Zoran Primorac (Croatia), Jörgen Persson (Sweden) and Jean-Michel Saive (Belgium) as well as ITTF helmsman.

The presentation was made before the first round match in the men’s team event between Nigeria and China and the ITTF President said: “On behalf of the ITTF I would like to congratulate Segun Toriola on his 7th Olympic appearance. This is a fantastic achievement and one that needs to be celebrated. We have enjoyed watching you play and we look forward to watching your more.”

Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive lauded Toriola for his exploits by saying, ““We have played many times and had many experiences together. Welcome to the ‘7 Club’ and we are honoured to share this record with you, as you are a fantastic ambassador for the sport and a great guy.”

For Croatia’s Zoran Primorac, Toriola should hold his head high for the rare feat in Africa. “Congratulations on your 7th Olympic Games. This is no easy feat, and you should be very proud of your achievement. Welcome to the club!” Primorac said.

For Toriola, he hopes that the award can inspire more athletes to aim for the best in their career. “It is a privilege to be next to you both and receive such recognition. I am proud to be in the 7 club with such champions and I hope I can inspire more kids to start playing table tennis around the world. Thank you ITTF for this trophy and everyone for your kind words,” an elated Toriola said after the award.”

By Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer

Award 2 What a selfie!!!!