Africa’s most successful female table tennis player, Olufunke Oshonaike, has concluded plans to host a clinic for junior ping-pong players in the country in Lagos.
The event scheduled to hold between February 25 and March 5 at the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) Training Centre inside the National Stadium in Lagos is expected to attract over 20 players made up of 11 girls and nine boys.
According to the Hamburg, Germany-based Oshonaike who remains the only female player to have won the All Africa Games women’s singles title back-to-back in 1999 and 2003, the gesture will surely give the players hope that with discipline and hardwork, they can reap from their efforts in the sport.
“I believe when top players like us organise such programmes for the young players, they can be inspired and motivated to take a cue from us. I am hoping to arrive in Lagos, Nigeria on February 24 for the clinic that will begin on February 25 to March 5,” she noted with enthusiasm.
Oshonaike is however not happy that the fortune of female players in the game Nigeria is going down.
According to her, the essence of the 10-day camping exercise is to inspire and motivate the players to passionately be committed to the sport.
“I love table tennis and the sport has given me all what I need in life. Apart from the fame, I have made some fortune from the sport. All these were made possible because I was committed to the sport and this made it possible for me to achieve all what I needed.
“Unfortunately these days, the Nigerian players are frustrated because of lack of exposure and this has discouraged most of them.
“I am hopeful that the clinic will help to re-launch them back to the track and I want to use the opportunity to inspire and also help them with some equipment that will aid them in training.
“I really want to focus on the female players because we have not been producing top female players like before and I hope that after telling them my story, they will be encouraged to aim high in the sport,” she observed further.
In the history of the African Games, Oshonaike is the most successful female table tennis player having won more medals than any other player. Apart from winning the 1999 and 2003 Games back to back, she was three-time finalist in the women’s singles.
However, with the emergence of players like Dina Meshref, Nadeen El-Dawlatly and Edem Offiong, Oshonaike in her 40s has started playing second fiddle the younger generation. But she never gave up as she continued to show deep passion for the sport with her presence in virtually all the continental competitions.
In most of the competitions, she ensured she made it to the last four but her efforts never fetch her expected laurels.
Beyond bookmakers’ analysis, Oshonaike became the continent champion again and she did it in a surprising fashion in Morocco last October.
As the only female Nigerian player competing at the 2016 ITTF African Championships amidst the array of players from Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, Oshonaike in her 40s turned the clock back with an emphatic 4-2 win over defending champion, Dina Meshref of Egypt to emerge as the best female player in the competition.