How table tennis continued to grow in Nigeria under one man’s watch.
The recently concluded Summer Olympics in Tokyo had Funke Oshonaike who was competing in his seventh event, a record for most table tennis appearances at the Summer Games. There was also Africa’s greatest actor in Aruna Quadri, making another appearance to the delight of table tennis enthusiasts across the country and beyond.
All of these efforts were no small feat as momentum built with a few table tennis players who have performed exceptionally well locally, continentally and internationally.
Just look back at Quadri and Oshonaike’s efforts at the ITTF / Africa Senior Cup 2017 in Agadir, Morocco, where they won gold and silver in the men’s and women’s categories respectively. Quadri also won gold at the ITTF Polish Open Challenge in Warsaw. This resulted in him winning the Nigerian Sportsman of the Year 2017 award at the Nigerian Sports Awards, where he knocked out the football superstar. Ahmed Moussa and basketball player Ike Diogu. Quadri would claim the same price in 2018.
The same year, at the Soglo International Invitation Tournament in Cotonou, Benin, the quartet of Nurudeen Hassan, Rashidat Ogundele, Jamiu Ayanwale and Nimota Aregbesola, all of them won gold.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, two silver medals were won, while at the 3rd edition of the African Youth Games in Algiers, Nigeria claimed a silver and bronze medal. , sign of the development of youth after 2 gold and 3 bronze. medals were pocketed at the ITTF World Junior and Cadet Tour and the 2017 Egypt Junior Open. Also in 2018, 2 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze were won at the Senior Championships ITTF-Africa from Port Louis, Mauritius.
2019 has been an incredible year for para table tennis with a total of 11 medals (6 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze) won at the African Para Table Tennis Championship in Egypt. At the ITTF Africa Para Championships also in Egypt, there were 12 medals (7 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze) in the bag. During the 12th African Games organized in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, 2 gold, 4 silver and 3 bronze medals were won by Nigeria.
In the last outing, a bronze medal was won at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
All of these efforts were carried out under the guidance of one man in Ishaku Tikon who is an engineer by profession and was the former president of the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation between 2017 and the end of his term in May 2021.
Despite these many accomplishments, the native of Taraba state – who is running for re-election, wants to do more to position Nigerian table tennis in Africa and globally.
“One of my plans, if I am re-elected, is to come up with strategies that will allow us to make table tennis evolve around the world”, Tikon said.
“Table tennis is played differently today, even in the African region you have wonderful players coming up daily. So we will be developing strategies and modules on how we will continue to dominate in Africa.”
Indeed, Nigeria is already positioned in the world with Quadri rising to the top 15 of the latest ITTF world rankings, the first Nigerian and African to achieve such a feat. It’s things like these that keep Tikon relentlessly trying to develop table tennis in Nigeria.
“Today we have our own [Quadri] coming first in the history of the region, falling in the top 15 is fantastic, it’s unprecedented and everything is attributed to the hard work of the athletes themselves and us [administrators] also involved., “ Tikon continued.
“So it’s going to be an ongoing process, building on what we’ve done so far, also developing some different things than what we’ve done to get to where we’re at. To meet the challenge of the world to come, we are properly broiled.
Judging by the strong table tennis track record under Tikon, he certainly looks good for re-election. He promises to organize more zonal and regional table tennis championships with the aim of discovering more young and talented players. He also wishes to continue hosting national competitions as well as grassroots development programs.
It is clear that table tennis has immense potential and there are prospects for Quadri, Oshonaike and emerging talents. If Tikon can deliver on his promises as the guardian of the sport, then more glory days are ahead which will help make racquet play even more popular and productive.
Kunle is a passionate writer interested in sports, politics and health topics. His articles have appeared in Goal.com, Opera News and Vanguard News. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in international relations and is an advocate for people living with hydrocephalus and other neurological disorders. Follow him on Twitter: @kfayiga
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