2) Aruna Quadri
Aruna Quadri’s talent is never in doubt, and it finally came to the fore at Rio Olympics. As the highest ranked African going into the Games, he proved his mettle by getting the farthest an African has ever been in men’s Singles Table Tennis event at an Olympics.
So why have we chosen Quadri as our No. 2 pick? The Sporting CP player had a lot on his shoulders even before he served off his first game. Entering the competition with his compatriots, Edem Offiong and Funke Oshonaike were eliminated in the first round, while Segun Toriola exited the competition in the second round. Quadri needed to keep the country’s flag flying.
Quadri was given a bye in the first round and entered in the second round, easily beating Slovakia’s Yang Wang 4-1 to make the third round. It was a step-up from his last outing in London where he lost in the second round.
It was the beginning of the unexpected as Quadri completely outclassed 5th seeded player Chih-Yuan Chuang with a shocking 4-0 to progress to the 4th round. That was Quadri’s biggest ever win in his career as nobody gave him a chance against Chuang who by virtue of being ranked No. 7 in the world, entered the competition at Round 3.
Then in Round 4, he continued his giant-slaying feat and further engraved his name in Nigerian Table Tennis folklore, becoming the first African player in history to qualify for the quarterfinal of the Table Tennis event at the Olympics, defeating World No.13, Timo Boll with a 4-2 victory.
Interestingly, that win saw Quadri surpass the legendary Toriola’s fourth round achievement at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
However in the quarterfinal, Quadri was at the receiving end of a huge defeat, beaten by none other than World No.1, Long Ma who must have learnt from the Nigerian’s surprise wins, giving no room for an upset as he convincingly won 4-0.
Quadri might have been beaten and not made the semis, but he gave Nigerians a lot to cheer on, which explains why some corporate organisations queued to append their names with his success.