When 21-year-old Olajide Omotayo made his senior debut with the Nigerian team at the 2016 ITTF African Championship in Morocco, it was obvious that the Italy-based star is ready to rub shoulders with stars. His round of 32 encounter against Omar Assar of Egypt in the men’s singles gave an insight into the quality of the young Nigerian a fact that Omar Assar himself attested to the quality of the player.
However, Olajide Omotayo’s journey to the senior cadre started in 2008 in Alexandria, Egypt when as a teenager he was part of the Nigerian team to the African Junior Championships. He has been consistent as a cadet and junior player for Nigeria that in his last junior tournament for Nigeria at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Morocco, he led the boys’ team where he played an exciting match against American Kanak Jha.
Having featured in the last two editions of the Nigerian Open, Olajide Omotayo will this month in Budapest, Hungary made his debut at the major ITTF World Tour in singles and doubles.
Explaining his feeling before the tournament, Olajide Omotayo said: “I really feel happy and motivated being my first ITTF Tour outside Nigeria because this is a breakthrough for me and a chance to compete with top players in the world as well as to improve my ranking, skills and gain more experience which i think is all I need to become a top player.”
Olajide Omotayo plies his trade with ASD Marcozzi, a second division team in the Italian table tennis league and this season he has played 12 matches with only one loss with the team occupying number one spot on the league table with their dream of gaining promotion to division one is about to become reality.
Omotayo has confirmed his participation in three ITTF World Tours this year – Hungarian, Slovenian and Nigerian Opens, but with the dream of competing more, Olajide Omotayo believes he hopes to cement his place in the competitive Nigerian team. “Apart from the three World Tours I have already confirmed my participation in, I am still planning to attend more if possible. I believe my participation in this competition will help me and getting good result and stepping up in the game remains my target. In the Nigerian team, there are so many good players and I know it is really going to be a hard one as I count myself lucky to be in the team which has the combination of experience of Segun Toriola and youthfulness of Aruna Quadri. I want to do everything possible to retain my place in the team by attending World Tours and training harder and harder.”
Explaining his 2017 targets, he said: “Actually I am currently ranked 600 in the world which saddens me whenever I go through the ITTF ranking page but at the same time it means I still have a long way to go. I know that the likes of Segun Toriola and Aruna Quadri started like this and having such people around me motivates me that impossible is nothing. All I need is to remain focused and keep fit always and with hard work success is sure.
His immediate target at the Hungarian Open is to qualify from the preliminary round and hoping to advance more from there.
He described Aruna Quadri as a big influence for him and other Nigerian players. “Aruna Quadri has a big influence on me and I must say I watch his matches often and learn how he plays with top players in the world. Seeing Aruna Quadri’s performance gives me hope and also triggers me to always believe in myself,” he added.