The hope of younger table tennis players to rise to stardom may have to wait a while following the decision of Nigerian ping pong legend, Segun Toriola, not to step down yet from the Olympian height for the new generation to mount the podium.
At age 42, Toriola was recently at the last Olympics Games inducted into ‘Club 7’ with other players who have participated in seven Games.
But yesterday, Toriola told ITTF newsletter that he still hopes to be at the next Olympics in four years time in Japan.
“I am still one of the best in my sport despite my age. My consistency in table tennis which sees me playing in two top regular clubs in Europe remains an added advantage for me as I continue to play in world-class competitions,” Toriola noted.
He is the first African to compete at seven Olympic Games, Toriola was honoured at Rio 2016 and now he wants to continue to shift the goal post by making his eighth appearance at an Olympic Games.
“Being 42 years old is one thing, being fit enough to continue playing top table tennis at top level is another.” He continued, “I am very discipline and I religiously follow the things that will continue to aid my fitness in the game. Come Tokyo 2020, I will still be good to represent Nigeria in top grade international competitions until after the Tokyo Olympics.”
Toriola believes with the feat achieved by Aruna Quadri in Rio, both of them can inspire a younger generation of Nigerians to take up the sport.
“The recognition of my achievements by the IOC at the Rio Olympics was a very good one” Toriola added, “This serves as a motivation for the young table tennis players and a boost for them to work hard and do well in their career.
“They now know that when they distinguish themselves, they would be recognised by the international sports federations.”
“The fear of not having any top rated Nigerian player doing well at the international circuit for a long time was one of the reasons I prolonged my playing career. I was scared not having any quality players to hand over to when I retire,” he revealed.
However, Toriola said that with the emergence of Aruna he can begin to think of leaving the stage.
“But with the emergence of Aruna Quadri, I can now retire peacefully with rest of mind that, there is somebody worth continuing from where I stop. But this won’t happen until after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I am still very active and even then the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation has asked me to continue for now,” added Toriola.
He admitted that some countries were asking him to take up coaching job with their federations.
“Some countries approached me in Rio to take up the full-time job as national team coach, but I turned all the requests down as I am not ready to quit yet,” he remarked.
The hard working player made his debut at the Olympics Games in Barcelona in 1992. He competed at Atlanta 96, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.