Italy-based Nigerian professional table tennis player, Olajide Omotayo has recounted how he was about dumping the ping pong game due to depression few years ago.
Omotayo, who is currently ranked 92nd in the International Table Tennis Federation male world ranking, is one of the athletes in Team Nigeria competing for honours in the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan.
According to Omotayo it took him struggled four years for him to be part of Nigerian contingent to the Olympic Games in Japan. He said: “It took me four years to get to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. A few years ago, I was battling depression with the determination to give up on playing table tennis and relocated to New York where my mom and sister live.
“After watching the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil, it made me think twice about giving up. So, I picked myself up and got back in the game. But behind my happy, smiling face lie many struggles and setbacks I had to overcome. Facing my struggles head on taught me how to be more resilient and fight for my dreams. Facing my challenges allowed me to grow as a person and as a table tennis player.
“Today, I could not be prouder to be in Tokyo training for my first match in the 2020 Olympic Games, and representing my beloved country.
“My wish is that my story will inspire and motivate so many souls out there. I promise that whatever you set your mind to, yes, you can achieve it. I am a living testimony and proof if I can do it, you can too.
“Quadri Aruna’s match after defeating Timo Boll of Germany at the Rio 2016 Olympics motivated me in a big way to get back in the game. And I have made many sacrifices to get here today. I have not laid eyes on my mom ever since I left New York four years ago. And while it hurts deeply and I think of her and miss her every single day, I know I would not be where I am now without massive sacrifice. Hard work works guys.”
Omotayo thanked members of his family and friends for standing by him, saying “My gratitude and love go to my family and friends who have been supporting me since the beginning of my journey. Thanks also to Aruna Quadri and his wife for always being there to encourage me with words and action, the Nigerian table tennis federation for the privilege to represent my beloved country, which I dearly love so much.
“And a very special thank you to my fans all over the globe, I love you.”
The Nigerian will begin his baptism of fire in his first-ever Olympic Games on Saturday against a Portuguese player and he vowed that his debut game will be a win for him.
“Now it’s time to get to business and fight for a place in the men singles second round spot. I am playing against Tiago Apolonia from Portugal and now is the time I need you guys the most. Your support and prayers go such a long way,” he said.
Omotayo is the youngest of six siblings. His peak world ranking to-date was 85. He is currently ranked 92nd in the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) male world rankings. He is the current Champion of Africa after defeating Quadri Aruna to win Gold in the Men’s Singles at the 2019 African Games, his debut appearance. Olajide is known for his offensive playing style with a strong topspin stroke. In 2017, Olajide secured a five-year sponsorship deal with the German manufacturer of kits, Gewo.
He competed for Nigeria at the 2016 African Championship (doubles event) and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia winning Bronze and silver respectively.
His first international appearance for Nigeria was in 2008 as a cadet at the 2008 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) African Junior and Cadet Championships which held in Alexandria, Egypt.
In 2019, he was nominated for Nigerian Sportsman of the Year Award by the ITTF.
Omotayo started playing table tennis at the age of 8. He was introduced to the game by his sister, Omobolanle Omotayo, a one-time national table tennis champion. He started his career playing for a local club, Summer Table Tennis club in his neighbourhood in Somolu Area, Lagos State.
He represented his school in the Lagos State Table Tennis Competition for Primary Schools and National School sports Competition at age 9. He started representing Nigeria at International Competitions at 11. In 2008, he represented Nigeria at the All African Junior Table Tennis Championships in Alexandria Egypt where he won Bronze.
He has since then established himself as a key member of Nigeria’s senior table Tennis Team at several International Tournaments.
He aspires to get to the Top 50 ranked players in the world.
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