Help re-grow table tennis, African champion calls out former stars

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For more than two decades, Olufunke Oshonaike has given her all to table tennis, a sport that she is presently the most decorated female player on the African continent.

She has to date won more medals at the African Games than any player in the continent.

She turned back the clock recently in Agadir, Morocco when she reclaimed the women singles title at the 2016 ITTF African Championship — a title she last won in 2003.

However, the Germany-based star believes former athletes have roles to play to help the growth of the sport in the continent.

To this effect, she decided to organise a clinic for junior players in Nigeria and this she started on Monday, Feb. 27 in Lagos.

“This is just my own way of giving back to the society where I gained from and I think former athletes like me should see what they can do to help various sports to grow in their various countries.

“We cannot just be complaining and not helping out and it is high time former players supported their various sports.

“But in Nigeria, I must say that the harsh economic weather has not helped the government to do much to the sport but we (former players) can see what we can do to help sport.

“I am happy that I am doing this and I am also motivated to do more. I hope that at the end of the clinic, we can see more former players coming forward to do the same thing for the sport,’’ said the mother of two.

The six-time Olympian adds: “I am particularly thrilled at the response of the players. There is no doubt that they are full of talents and what has encouraged this first day was their enthusiasm to learn.

“This has really motivated me on this first day that at the end of the exercise, we will have more of them stepping into my shoes.

“But I have also realised that this kind of camp must be full of fun and this has also made it easy for them to show interest.’’

No fewer than 20 players drawn from different states across Nigeria are taking part in the clinic holding at the National Training Centre of the National Stadium in Lagos.

According to Olufunke Oshonaike, the clinic will climaxed on March 2 to March 4 with top 16 championship with top 16 boys and top 16 girls competing for prizes and laurels in a three-day tournament.

The tournament is part of the plans to select the best hands to the 2017 ITTF African Junior Championship holding in Tunis in April. ##




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