Having been part of six Olympics build ups, Africa’s most decorated table tennis player, Segun Toriola, has lamented the preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, describing it as the worst ever.
Toriola, 42, who will be making history in Brazil as the first African athlete to feature in seven Olympic Games insisted yesterday that he has never witnessed the kind of preparation Team Nigeria is facing since he made his debut at Barcelona ’92 in Spain.
“I don’t think we ever had it so bad like this because even the last Olympics in London, by this time, we have started preparation.
“It is disheartening that nobody is even telling us (athletes) what is the next thing we need to do. With this kind of shoddy preparation, I don’t think anybody should expect much from Team Nigerian athletes because most of our opponents are rounding up their preparation for the Games while we have not even started,” laments the table tennis star.
Toriola said that the idea of focusing on some particular sports as area of prospect for medals was wrong.
“I want our administrators to know that qualifying for the Olympics is not as easy as they think. Athletes go through qualifiers to make it to the Olympics. This is the biggest stage for every athlete and all those that have been winning Olympics medal had quality preparations. Nigerian athletes should equally be given enough support if they are to match their counterparts with quality funding ,” the former African champion reasoned.
Toriola, who after nine years of playing professional in the French table tennis league is switching to the Belgian for greener pastures. After playing his last game on May 3 for Argentan, Toriola was honoured by the French club officials for meritorious service.
Before dropping to second division two years ago, Argentan played in the Premiership division. Toriola led the club to a third place finish in the French second division.
According to the club’s official website, “His last match at the Bayard Argentan on Tuesday evening, May 3, 2016, provided opportunities for fans to say goodbye to Segun Toriola. It was also a chance to let him know that many of his fans will follow his exploits at the Olympics in Rio.”
“At 42, the sporting star bows and he has confirmed that he will remain part of us in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, the home of Argentan, where he built his everyday life.”
In response to the generous words from the club officials to describe his almost a decade adventure at Argentan, Toriola said the memories will live with his for life.
“I cherish my last match for the club because being the only team I played for in the French league, I enjoyed every of my stay with the team. My heart will always be with them and I hope to continue to train with the club while I play in Belgium league,” concludes the longest serving Nigerian Olympian.