Why Nigerian Paralympians missed Tokyo medals in table tennis -Koleosho
Ahmed Koleosho, one of Nigeria’s Paralympians at the Tokyo 2020 Games, explained on Tuesday what led the Nigerian team to fail to win a medal in the para table tennis singles events.
Koleosho said NOPE in Lagos that he and his teammates did not reach the podium due to the technical characteristics of their respective event.
“It wasn’t out of incapacity. Also, it wasn’t that the opponents we faced at the Games were of superior ability, ”he said.
NOPE reports that Koleosho and his partner Isau Ogunkunle failed in their attempt to reach the semi-finals of the team event when they lost to a French duo in the quarter-finals.
The Nigerian duo lost 0-2 to the French pair of Florian Merrien and Nicolas Savant in the men’s team class 4-5 event.
They had previously lost 1-2 to Argentina pair Gabriel Copola and Mauro Depergola in the same event.
Koleosho, a 35-year-old law graduate, said the Nigerian team at the Paralympic Games gave their all in Tokyo and won an emphatic victory over the top-rated stars, especially in table tennis.
He stressed, however, that the facilities used during the Games hindered their progress.
“We had a good performance at Tokyo 2020. It was a great experience for me and my performance was better than Rio 2016.
“I was about to step onto the medal table at the Paralympic Games before I lost, and I think God just wanted it to be like that,” Koleosho added.
He did note, however, that he needed to go back to the drawing board to make any necessary adjustments.
“One thing is for sure, we (the para-athletes) need more support to help us improve in our events. We need to participate in more competitions, like European and Asian competitions. It will help a lot to master the technical details, ”said the Paralympian.
However, he expressed his gratitude to the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for his intervention before the Games.
“But we need more of that kind of support to keep us in shape,” said Koleosho, captain of the Lagos team at the 2020 National Sports Festival in Benin.
The para-athlete also pointed out that some of the technical details that gave their Tokyo 2020 opponents an advantage lay in the number of competitions in which the overseas counterparts took part.
“The opponents at the Paralympic Games were no better than us in terms of skills because we are able to match them. The only plus was that they got used to the facilities.
“I realized during the Paralympics that these top-rated players aren’t that special, because the advantage only came from the number of competitions they took part in.
“In the para table tennis calendar, we have international competitions ranging from 20 to 25, while these top athletes can attend up to 15 when we cannot attend.
“So in comparing their exposure to competitions, we are lagging behind because in racquet sports we have to constantly commit to improve,” he said.
Koleosho added that the facilities used during the Paralympic Games were different from what Nigerian athletes were familiar with, saying this was another reason for the underperformance.
“The tables used during the Paralympic Games have constantly changed, especially in terms of speed. It was therefore necessary to become familiar with the tables and study the movements.
“Plus the floor and lighting around the table tennis courts all had a big effect on our performance and they shaped the technical details I’m referring to.
“If I have the opportunity to constantly play on these facilities, then I should be able to beat them.
“To take this point further, that we can match them, everyone can see that I was able to beat the best players.
“I was able to beat world numbers five and ten at the Paralympic Games.
“So their ranking is based on the number of competitions that they have participated in that have given them points,” he said.
Koleosho, however, asked for more support from para-athletes to attend international competitions, which would expose them to more technical details and improve their rankings.
“We need competitions to get more points for the leaderboards and also expose ourselves to the technical details of the game. We are appealing for more sponsors to help us achieve the goal of bringing glory to the country.
“We need this support now to be able to be fully prepared for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris,” he pleaded.