The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has described Nigerian table tennis star Aruna Quadri as Africa’s most talented and successful Olympic table tennis player of all time, two years after reaching the quarter-final of the event at Rio 2016 Olympic.
The 2018 Nigerian open champion defiled all odds to reach the last eight of the table tennis event in Brazil back in 2016 and he defeated high ranked players to become the first African to achieve such feat at the Olympics.
“Two decades after he took up table tennis on the streets of Oyo, in south-western Nigeria, Quadri Aruna became the first African to reach an Olympic quarterfinal,” IOC said in an interview with the Nigerian published on their website.
The Portuguese based Quadri revealed how he managed to overcome some biggest stars of the game to reach stardom in Rio
“I actually had no confidence against Chuang Chih-Yuan [Chinese Taipei’s four-time world tour champion, whom Aruna faced in the third round] because earlier in January that year I lost in Germany in the first round 4-0 to him.
So in Rio I was like, “I have lost before, now I have nothing left to lose, he is a much better player than me.” So, I said to myself, “Just give your best, play and enjoy.” Then I was able to win the first two sets and the match was a different spirit entirely.”
“Against Timo Boll [Germany’s three-time Olympic medal winner, whom Aruna played in the fourth round] I was feeling the same way. I was aware the whole world was watching.
But before Timo was able to understand my game; I was already 3-0 and it was really too late for him to come back. I stepped up my game and played without pressure because I knew all the players in the Olympic Games are very, very good.”
“My performance in Rio really made table tennis much more popular in Nigeria. Whenever I am in the airport now so many officials recognize me now and on the streets, not just where I came from, so many people wave.”
Quadri added that the performance has helped the popularity of table tennis back in his home country (Nigeria) and charges Government to entrust the sport in the hands of the right people.
“More priority needs to be given to table tennis. Governments need to put people who want to work in sport in the right positions. I am supporting so many players, about six juniors. When I was young no one was able to support me, even with equipment, but these days I am able to help them, to give them equipment and let them play for free.”
He, therefore, praised his wife who quit professional table tennis to focus on family.
My wife was a very good player. Now she doesn’t play professionally. She plays for pleasure, but she is a very good training partner and sometimes she beats me.
I am very thankful to her, she is always looking after the kids when I am not at home, which is one of the reasons she is not playing professionally anymore,” Quadri said.