In the history of the African Games, Olufunke Oshonaike is the most successful female table tennis player having won more medals than any other player. She was three-time finalist in the women’s singles event of the African Games while she remains the only player to have won the women’s singles title back-to-back in 1999 and 2003.
However, with the emergence of younger players like Dina Meshref, Nadeen El-Dawlatly and Edem Offiong, Olufunke Oshonaike started playing second fiddle. But she never gave up as she continued to show deep passion for the sport with her presence in virtually all the continental competitions.
In most of the competitions, she ensured she made it to the last four but her efforts never fetch her the expected laurels.
However beyond bookmakers’ analysis, Olufunke Oshonaike became the continental champion again and she did it in a surprising fashion in Morocco last year (October 2016).
As the only female Nigerian player competing at the 2016 ITTF African Championships amidst the array of players from Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, Olufunke Oshonaike in her 40s turned the clock back with an emphatic 4-2 win over defending champion, Dina Meshref of Egypt to emerge as the best female player on the competition.
Based in Hamburg, Germany with her family, Olufunke Oshonaike is however not happy that the fortune of female players in Nigeria is going down and she decided to organise a clinic for junior players in Nigeria.
According to Olufunke Oshonaike, the essence of the 10-day camping exercise is to inspire and motivate the players to passionately be committed to the sport.
“I love table tennis and the sport has given me all what I need in life. Apart from the fame, I have made some fortune from the sport. All these were made possible because I was committed to the sport and this made it possible for me to achieve all what I needed. Unfortunately these days, the Nigerian players are frustrated because of lack of exposure and this has discouraged most of them. I am hopeful that the clinic will help to re-launch them back on track and I want to use the opportunity to inspire and also help them with some equipment that will aid them in training. I really want to focus on the female players because we have not been producing top female players like before and I hope that after telling them my story, they will be encouraged to aim high in the sport,” she said.
The six-time Olympian believes the gesture will surely give the players hope that with discipline and hard-work, they can reap from their efforts in the sport. “I believe when top players like us organise such programme for the young players, they can be inspired and motivated to take a cue from us. I am hoping to arrive in Lagos, Nigeria on February 24 for the clinic that will begin on February 25 to March 5 at the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) Training Centre of the Lagos National Stadium,” she added.
Over 20 players made up of 11 girls and nine boys have been shortlisted by NTTF for the 10-day camping exercise.