SEGUN Toriola, Nigeria’s table tennis star, on Thursday, February 18, made history in Khartoum, Sudan when he booked a place at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
He will become the first African athlete to feature in seven Olympics when he goes to Brazil.
Toriola, a former African champion, defeated Togo’s Mawussi Agbetoglo 4-0 in the semi-final of the ITTF Africa Olympics Qualification Tournament. He also defeated Congo’s Saka Suraju 4-1 in the final to win the men’s single title of the tournament.
The Nigerian contingent will be completed by Edem Offiong, who also qualified for the Games after beating Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi 4-0 in the women’s singles semi-finals on Thursday, February 18. Offiong also won the women’s single by defeating Tunisia’s Saidani Safa 4-0 in the final.
Nigeria will now have four places – same as Egypt – in Brazil. Quadri Aruna and Funke Oshonaike had earlier qualified for the Games in 2015.
Toriola now joins Sweden’s Jorgen Persson, Croatia’s Zoran Primorac and Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive as the four players who have to date qualified for the table tennis events at seven consecutive Olympic Games.
The 41-year-old debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in Spain and since then he has been participating at every Olympics.
Toriola also holds the record as the most successful African table tennis player at the Olympics, when he made it to the fourth round of the men’s singles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China.
The Nigerian told the ITTF website that he was happy with his achievements. He said: “I never believed I could be playing in my seventh Olympics of my career. I am happy that I made history as the first African to achieve this feat. It was a bit difficult for me because I played under a lot of pressure.
“I ensured I was not too confident in all my matches and I am glad that I made it and I hope to now focus on the preparation which is vital to me as well.”
Apart from making history, Toriola has also featured at four consecutive editions of the All Africa Games. He won the men’s singles at Harare 1995, Johannesburg 1999, Abuja 2003 and Algiers 2007 to become the first athlete to achieve such feat.
— Feb 29, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT