Quadri Aruna believes his history-making feat at the 2021 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships in Houston where he became the first African player to reach the quarter-finals will motivate more players from the continent to push the limits at global competitions.
Aruna’s historic run at the tournament came to an end at the weekend following a 4-2 loss to Sweden’s Truls Moregard in the last eight of the Men’s Singles.
The Nigerian who had earlier in the round of 16 defeated another Swede Kristian Karlsson bemoaned his inability to tame the young and skilful 19-year-old Swede after falling behind in the first two games of the 4-2 (13-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-4, 12-14, 11-7) loss in the quarter-finals.
“I think I did very well, I gave my heart and soul but the last match was not meant to be,” Aruna told ITTF Africa media following the match.
“The first two sets were really important, we started like 50-50, the first set I was like 10-8 and I lost, the second set, I lost with almost the same margin. This was really important, these first two sets made the biggest difference, but of course, he played amazingly.”
Speaking about the significance of his achievement in Houston, Aruna said his performance will spur players on the continent to achieve even greater feats in subsequent editions and other global tournaments much as the trailblazing achievements of past legends inspired him.
“It will motivate them, you know when Toriola got to the round of 32 in the Olympic games, it motivated a lot of us, so I was in the quarter-final in Rio,” Africa’s top-ranked player said.
“Omar Assar was motivated and excited, he did the same in Tokyo. Now what I did here, I am very sure [Olajide] Omotayo, Iba or Omar Assar can even do better,” the 33-year-old 2014 ITTF World Player of Year added.
Reacting to Aruna’s historic run in Houston, African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) president Khaled El-Salhy described the Nigerian as a trailblazer and inspiration.
“I am so proud of the super performance of Quadri Aruna here in 2021 WTTC – Houston. He is always breaking the records and as one of the top African players participating in the World Championships, he reached the quarter-final stage for the first time by any player from Africa,” El-Salhy remarked.
“He is always working hard to improve himself and he has the quality to compete against world top stars in any major competition.
“Aruna is a table tennis icon for Africa and a good role model to all our young players to emulate.”
Aruna would hope to create even more history at the maiden $600,000 World Table Tennis (WTT) Cup Finals scheduled for 4 to 7 December in Singapore where he is the sole African listed among the top 20 ranked male players in the world.