The arrival of Africa’s Olympic legend, Segun Toriola in Nairobi on December 19, was greeted with a lot of excitement across the continent and his visit to the East African nation was seen as a plus to the growth of table tennis in Kenya.
Toriola, who is at present the most decorated table tennis star in Africa and the only African to have featured in seven Olympic Games, was received with a warm welcome by the Kenya Table Tennis Association (KTTA) led by its President, Andrew Mudibo.
From former players to coaches, the five-day training exercise was well attended by those in charge of the sport and without any doubt the seed sown by Toriola would surely germinate in few years to come and this was reflected in the views of the participants.
Kenyan number one male table tennis star, Peter Theuri is optimistic that things would change for the better for KTTA. “I thank KTTA for bringing Toriola during the December holidays. I have had the experience of learning from him now in training and not in international tournaments, where he always defeats us very quickly. This time round I have leant a lot from what he has passed to us and soon you will see changes in my game.”
Also the Kenyan number one female player, Sejal Chandarana said: “The few days I have been coached by Toriola has brought changes to my game. It is nice to see him concentrate with the junior players who are attending the coaching clinic and I can assure you his one of the best coaches I have worked with. I hope he will become a coach when he stops playing.”
Even teenager was not left out of the training with 10-year-old Anne Marrie describing the experience as a dream come true. “My dream has come true, I only saw him once on television and he knows how to return the ball like it is stuck on the bat. I will be a world champion with his training.”
Former Kenyan top player and now a coach, Anthony Mathenge has gained valuable knowledge from the Nigerian. “Working with Toriola has been quite good. The experience he has is really important for all of us and I have learnt a lot from him and I am going to put all that he has passed unto us into practice. I have learnt a lot about time management from him especially the rest period that a player requires in between training sessions and also after a match.
For Development Coach, Kennedy Otieno, working with Toriola has improved his understanding of the sport. “This is the first time I am working with an international player of high ranking. I have learnt a lot from him on techniques and drills to follow for our players. He has definitely brought change to the game of Kenya.”
The most satisfying person on Toriola’s visit is KTTA boss, Andrew Mudibo, who described the African star as a true professional. “Toriola has been exceptionally good and he is such a professional athlete and knows how to work with everyone. Kenya will definitely be utilizing his services more often and I would like to see him assist us in uplifting the playing standards of our junior players, so that we can have a strong team of junior players. We all know that the foundation of a strong national team is made from quality junior players playing and Toriola is the man to do this job,” Mudibo said.
He added: “He has trained the junior players so well and they now want to play Aruna Quadri and they have asked Toriola to bring Aruna next time he comes back to the Country.”