Nigeria’s table tennis legend, Segun Toriola, says he will be retiring from the national team but will wait till after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Toriola who has featured seven times for Nigeria at the quadrennial showpiece, is looking to make it eight from the ongoing 2019 ITTF Nigeria Open.
The top seeded player who began his quest with a hard fought 4-3 (4-11, 4-11, 11-9,11-9, 11-6, 9-11,12-10) win over Indian, Sudhanshu Grover, described the tournament as the toughest so far but is confident he will make it to the Olympics.
“This year Nigeria Open is the most difficult one because a lot of top players came. The Germans, the Belgians and French players are all here, they are very good players,” Toriola said.
“It is very good for the young players because they need to see the top players play so they can improve their standard.”
SUPPORT FOR YOUNG TALENTS
The 44 year old player said his love for the game and the absence of capable young talents have kept him from moving on, but will always be around to support the players.
“Right now I want to qualify for my eight Olympic games and after the Olympics I’m done for the national team but that doesn’t mean when I’m in Nigeria I will not play in the Nigerian Open. I can play for fun,” He said.
“I am going to be around coaching and supporting the young players and the national team, I cannot go away,” Toriola added.
“That’s the problem we have, that is why table tennis is not improving in Nigeria because our ex-champions are not here, not of them is here.”
“I don’t blame them, it’s because the federation does not invite them that is why the young ones are not improving. During my time, we had a lot of junior players doing well but right now we have few because the old ones are not involved.”
Toriola said that Nigeria has so many talented players while pointing out that lack of coaching and good training, were the major reasons for the country’s recent poor outing at international tournaments.
“We have very few of them that really improved, I believe if they have support there is going to be more improvement, but right now the problem they have is coaching, most of them practice on their own and that is a big problem,” Toriola said.
“During my time, we had coaches and support but they don’t have that right now. The states’ sports councils are the worst, they are killing sports in Nigeria.”
“Most people always say it’s the sport ministry, the Ministry’s job is to select the best players but it’s the sports council’s job to train players. The federation is really trying to support players.”