By Adeyemi Robinson-Adefioye, Lagos
Scintillating performance of Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri made one of the major highlights listed by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) after the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
Aruna Quadri…celebrated at the world body level
In the Rio 2016 Wrap Up published at the weekend on the website of the world table tennis ruling body, Aruna was described as the African star of Rio.
“The Men’s Singles event also featured fantastic performances from two players in particular: Hugo Calderano and Quadri Aruna. Calderano made full use of the home crowd advantage as the Brazilian negotiated the likes of Par Gerell and Tang Peng on his way to a round four finish,” ITTF said.
The body added: “Nigerian contestant Aruna Quadri caused arguably the biggest upsets in the category as the 27th seed beat Chuang Chih-Yuan (6th) and Timo Boll (10th) before eventually exiting to Ma Long in the last eight – becoming the first African to reach that stage of an Olympic Table Tennis competition.”
Quoting Quadri after the feat, “This is amazing, I don’t know what to say. My fans made me do this. Thank you for all the Brazilian spectators for their support. They gave me so much energy. This feels so good, it is a dream come true.”
Also, the Women’s Singles tournament at Rio 2016 saw China’s Ding Ning win her first ever Olympic singles gold medal, after her victory over the London 2012 champion Li Xiaoxia (China). Both finalists brought their ‘A’ game as two of the world’s top competitors fought it out for the ultimate prize, but there could only be one winner and it was Ding who took it in the seventh game to seal the gold (11-9, 5-11, 14-12, 9-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7).
Sadly, Li Xiaoxia confirmed that Rio 2016 would be her final appearance for China, “It’s with pity to retire, but it’s for a better future.” Li added, “Life can’t be always sweet, and I’ll face my retirement with a smile. Thank you table tennis for everything that the sport has given me.”
Ma Long stood victorious over fellow compatriot Zhang Jike in the Men’s Singles final, as China won their second Table Tennis gold medal of the Games.
With the top two seeds going head-to-head there was potential for a thrilling final, however, after edging the first end in deuce, Ma thundered past Zhang in the following three games to win the gold medal on his Olympic singles debut (14-12, 11-5, 11-4, 11-4).
Jun Mizutani played some of the best Table Tennis of his career at Rio 2016 and he did his country proud by becoming the first Japanese competitor to win a singles medal at an Olympic Games with his victory against Belarusian Vladimir Samsonov in the bronze medal match.
Two major achievements came from the Women’s Team category, as Germany won silver and Mima Ito won a team bronze with Japan.
Germany’s silver is the first medal of any colour to be won by a European country in the Women’s Team competition, while Japanese teenager Mima Ito became the youngest competitor to win an Olympic Table Tennis medal aged 15 years and 300 days exactly.