All eyes will be on Segun Toriola when the 2016 Africa Olympic Qualification Tournament begins in Khartoum, Sudan from February 16 to 18, 2016 as he aims to become the first African to play in seven Olympics.
The former five-time Africa champion holds the record of becoming the first Nigerian to feature in six Olympic Games after the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Toriola made his debut at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics in Spain, and since then, he has made it to all the Olympics with his best record of reaching the Men’s Singles 1/16 final at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, beating amongst others former world number 1, Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive as well as Canada’s David Zhuang.
His 1/32 match-up with Jean-Michel Saive was seen by many as one of the highlights of the Men’s Singles Tournament. He narrowly lost 4-3 to heavily favoured South Korea’s Oh Sang-Eun in the round of 16.
His fifth Olympic appearance in 2008 made him the first Nigerian man to appear at five Olympics. This feat was achieved four years earlier by sprinter Mary Onyali and also in 2008 by another table tennis player Bose Kaffo.
With his participation in the 2012 Olympics in London, he became the only Nigerian athlete to feature at six Olympics. He therefore joined João N’Tyamba of Angola and Maria Mutola of Mozambique as only third ever African athlete to compete in six Olympics.
Having narrowly missed the automatic qualification at the 2015 African Games in Congo Brazzaville following his quarterfinal loss to Congo Brazzaville’s Wang Jianan, Segun Toriola will be hoping for one of the two slots available in the men’s event in Sudan.
As the most successful table tennis player in Africa, all eyes are fixed on the Nigerian as he aims to become the first African to play in seven Olympics.
According to the President of Africa Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), Khaled El-Salhy, the tournament hopes to open a new chapter in the history of table tennis in the continent with Segun Toriola on the verge of history while the host – Sudan hopes to stage a colourful event.
“It will be a very big surprise and a real honour for Africa Table Tennis to host such Top 16 Cup followed by the African Qualification 2nd Tournament for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
On whether Congo Brazzaville can nominate their second Chinese import for the qualifiers, the ATTF boss said; “In-spite of the African qualification tournament for 2016 Rio OG, it will take place in Khartoum – Sudan on February 16 to 18, 2016 just after the ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup, and the eligibility for such event is for all nominees having valid passports (i.e. according to IOC eligibility), the same rules already applied for the 11th African Games as the 1st qualification event to 2016 Rio OG.
“This means that as Congo Brazzaville still entitled to send one entry in each single event (men & women), thus they can nominate HU Bin in men & also LI Yuheng in women if they wish to do so.”
He added: “All African Associations entitle to send two entries (men) + two entries (women) for the African Qualification Tournament in Sudan (16-18/2/2016) except for Sudan as the host to have 4 men + 4 women, Congo Brazzaville to send 1 man + 1 woman, Nigeria to send 1 man + 1 woman, while for Egypt has no chance to send any entries in both. This is due to the already qualified players from the 1st stage of qualification in Brazzaville (September 2015) with 4 men + 4 women including (2 from EGY, 1 from NGR & 1 from CGO), especially all those qualified players already confirmed by their NOCs to play in 2016 Rio OG.”
Segun Toriola has won multiple medals in continental and international singles tournaments. Some of his important achievements include winning the African Table Tennis Singles Championships four times in 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2 Doubles Championships in 1994 and 1992. He also has a Commonwealth Singles Championship gold medal which he won in Manchester in 2002.