Funke Oshonaike officially inducted into Olympics table tennis ‘Club 7’
…Joins Segun Toriola, three others as only ping pong players to compete at seven Olympics
Nigerian and African table tennis legend Olufunke Oshonaike has officially been recognised as a member of the exclusive club of ping pong players to have attended seven Olympic Games.
Oshonaike was on Monday presented with a plaque to officially mark her induction into the exclusive club, becoming the first woman to attain such an honour in the world of table tennis.
Only four other table tennis players – all of them men – had previously attained such Olympian heights since table tennis became an Olympic sport at the Seoul ‘88 Games.
They are Jörgen Persson of Sweden (1988 to 2012), Zoran Primorac of Croatia and the former Yugoslavia (1988 to 2012), Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive (1988 to 2012), and former Nigerian and African champion, Segun Toriola, who became the first non-European table tennis player to compete at seven Olympics when he competed at the Rio 2016 Games.
Toriola made his Olympic debut as a 24-year-old at the Barcelona ‘92 Games, four years before Oshonaike made her Olympic Games debut at the Atlanta ‘96 Games.
Speaking after receiving her plaque at a brief ceremony in which the other Club 7 inductees Persson, Primorac, Saive, and Toriola were in attendance, Oshonaike hoped the honour would “brighten the hearts of Nigerians.”
“I hope this award for me and my country, as the only girl in the seventh club in the world, and the only woman in Africa to have achieved the dream of representing her country at the Olympics seven times, will brighten the hearts of Nigerians.
“Funke is very happy. Thanks to Nigeria and thanks to the Minister,” she said, referring to Nigeria’s Minister of Youth Sports and Social Development, Sunday Dare.
“Though I might not have won gold, silver or bronze, but I have won what no woman in the world of table tennis has ever won. Thank God for the award – the 7 Club award. I’m a proud Nigerian [and I] hope more women will join me,” added the 46-year-old who was 20 when she played her first match for Nigeria at the Atlanta ‘96 Olympics in the women’s doubles, partnering Bose Kaffo in a match against Russia.
Oshonaike lost out in the first round in Tokyo, losing to Liu Juan of the United States in the women’s singles.