Sports

Tokyo 2020: Oshonaike officially joins Olympics table tennis Club 7

…as organisers issue tropical storm warning

Nigerian table tennis legend, Funke Oshonaike has officially been recognised as a member of the exclusive club of ping pong players who have competed in seven Olympic Games.

Oshonaike was presented with a plaque on Monday to officially mark her induction into the exclusive club, making her the first woman in the world of table tennis to receive such an honor.

Only four other table tennis players, all of whom were men, had previously reached such Olympic heights since table tennis became an Olympic sport at the Seoul Games in 1988.

One of those on that exclusive list is former Nigerian and African champion, Segun Toriola, who became the first non-European table tennis player to compete at seven Olympics when he competed at the Rio 2016 Games.

Toriola made his Olympic debut as a 24-year-old at the Barcelona ‘92 Games, four years before Oshonaike made her Olympic Games debut at the Atlanta ‘96 Games.

Speaking after receiving her plaque at a brief ceremony in which the other Club 7 inductees Persson, Primorac, Saive, and Toriola were in attendance, Oshonaike hoped the honour would “brighten the hearts of Nigerians.”

“I hope this award for me and my country, as the only girl in the seventh club in the world, and the only woman in Africa to have achieved the dream of representing her country at the Olympics seven times, will brighten the hearts of Nigerians.

“Funke is very happy. Thanks to Nigeria and thanks to the Minister,” she said, referring to Nigeria’s Minister of Youth Sports and Social Development, Sunday Dare.

“Though I might not have won gold, silver or bronze, but I have won what no woman in the world of table tennis has ever won. Thank God for the award – the 7 Club award. I’m a proud Nigerian [and I] hope more women will join me,” added the 46-year-old who was 20 when she played her first match for Nigeria at the Atlanta ‘96 Olympics in the women’s doubles, partnering Bose Kaffo in a match against Russia.

Oshonaike lost out in the first round in Tokyo, losing to Liu Juan of the United States in the women’s singles.

Meanwhile, organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have issued a typhoon warning from July 26-28, but say a tropical storm expected to hit Japan on Tuesday codenamed Nepartak is unlikely to cause major disruption to the Games.

Rowing events and archery have already been moved, according to information obtained from the Tokyo Olympics’ official website, but there are no plans to move any other events unless the forecast changes.

Tropical storm Nepartak, had originally been forecast, but the storm has now been downgraded.

Nepartak was the reason why Olympics organisers had to reschedule rowing events from Monday to Sunday.

The weather has already been a factor at this year’s Olympics, with athletes competing in sweltering summer heat, with some analysts saying this may be the hottest Olympic Games on record.

On Friday, a Russian archer fainted in the sweltering Tokyo heat, while athletes and coaches have resorted to using cooling vests, fans and umbrellas to protect themselves.

The storm is just the latest challenge to hit the Games that had to be delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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