Aruna Quadri has overtime proven his mettle as an African Giant both on the continent and in the world. Currently ranked 21st in the world, his dedication to the sport has positioned him, not only as the fans’ favourite, but also as a potential candidate likely to win Africa’s first medal in Table Tennis at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics in July.

Quadri’s journey into becoming a professional Table Tennis player began at age seven in Oyo State where he was introduced to the sport by a neighbor who later became his mentor.

After conquering his locality, Quadri was invited to play in a tournament in Lagos, which he won in flying colours. This victory brought him into the limelight within Nigerian Table Tennis circles and after several years of showing consistency in his craft, he got the opportunity to represent Nigeria on the continent, before getting his big shot at the London Olympics in 2012.

Quadri Aruna became the first African to be crowned International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Male Star in 2014.

Though disappointed by his first round finish in London, the reigning ITTF Nigeria Open Champion went back to work, using the setback as motivation to re-launch his career.

Barely two years after the 2012 Olympics, Quadri leaped 209 places from 239 to No.30 in the world ranking. This run of form also earned him the International Table Tennis Federation Star Player of the Year Award in 2014, the first African player to land the coveted award.

Perhaps the only attribute that separates Quadri from any other player on the continent is his consistency. This lays credence to his performance in the last decade because he went on to become the first African to reach the quarter finals in the Table Tennis event at the Olympics after he upset the Legendary Timo Boll of Germany in the Round of 16 at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Quadri hasn’t looked back since then! He has won at least two titles/medals every year since then for either club or country.

Aruna Quadri and Omar Assar as partners in a doubles match

Quadri’s ability is never in doubt, and if there’s any African who could possibly disrupt the proceedings in the main draw of the Olympics, that player is Quadri, closely followed by his continental rival and doubles partner, Omar Assar.

The rivalry between these two players can be traced as far back as 2010, with the Egyptian dominating the head-to-head with nine wins in 16 meetings, but then a seeming twist of fate since 2016 has seen Quadri record five wins in their last eight meetings.

Also, past events have shown that Quadri does better than his Egyptian counterpart at international tournaments. However, Quadri is yet to officially qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games after he sustained a thigh injury at the 2020 Olympics Singles and mixed doubles qualification event held in Tunisia last February.

He was also left in a limbo after all 2020 ITTF events were cancelled due to the pandemic, including the World Singles Qualification Tournament scheduled to hold in Doha. This means that the African champion will have to wait until March of 2021 to qualify, when he competes at the tournament.

However, it is certain that Quadri will qualify for a third appearance at the Olympic Games through his placement on the ITTF ranking.

Like many other athletes around the world who have been badly hit by the consequences of the pandemic, asides club duties, Quadri has competed in only one international tournament – the 2020 ITTF Finals held in Zhengzhou, China, in the last 10 months.

This level of inactivity may possibly have an impact on his readiness for qualification, let alone going as far as winning a medal in Tokyo: “Nothing is certain”, was Quadri’s response when asked about the build up to the Olympics.

Amid the continued difficulties experienced by athletes around the world due to the pandemic, participating in tournaments has become not only an extreme sport, but also a very expensive one at that.

Quadri, who is based in Germany where he plays in the German Table Tennis League for TTC RhönSprudel Fulda-Maberzell, will have it tough participating at these tournaments because of the cost of travelling.

Typically, it will cost Quadri in excess of $5000 to participate in Qatar/Doha in March and he will be footing a large chunk of this expense as many of his sponsors including his club, are facing financial constraints due to the pandemic.

In spite of these challenges, the African Champion is known for his ability to rise to the occasion where and when necessary , and so he is positive that the series of matches at the upcoming WTT Star Contender event in Qatar in March will help put him in competitive mood ahead of the Olympic qualifiers holding same month in Doha.

Playing in the German Bundesliga which is one of the best leagues in the world and where he is currently rated the 12th best player in the league, will serve as preparation for the upcoming tournaments, and with the Olympics still five months away, Quadri has some time to put things in place before the Games and who knows, could contest for a medal when he makes his third appearance at the Olympics.

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Latifat Adebayo
Latifat Adebayo (@phatill) is a Digital Sports Journalist, a content creator and social media enthusiast.

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