When Ojo Onaolapo made his international debut for Nigeria in 2008 at the African Junior Championships in Alexandria, Egypt, he was touted as another potential standout player for the West African nation.
As a left-hand player, he was skilful and calm on table and these qualities caught the attention of the world table tennis ruling body, ITTF to award a scholarship to the young Nigerian.
From 2008 to 2010, Onaolapo has traversed the globe showcasing his talent to the extent that he made a mark in one of the tournaments he attended in Asia. But his hard work and tenacity actually paid off when he secured a spot in the boys’ singles event of the maiden Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
Beyond every odd, Ojo Onaolapo fought his way into the last eight of the competition, making it clear from there that the teenager had the world at his feet. However, despite his exploits at the global level, Ojo Onaolapo never had another shot at the top. He remained a local champion in Nigeria until he fought his way into the senior team in 2014 to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
There, his singular efforts earned Nigeria the bronze medal in the men’s team event when he caused a major upset with a 3-1 win over India’s Sharath Achanta in the deciding game of the third place match in Scotland.
His bizarre celebration of pulling off his pant after the golden win went viral on the Internet.That performance fetched him a contract with Marcozzi Table Tennis Club of Italy, where he spent a season with the team before returning to Nigeria in 2015. Despite not being impressive at the World Team Championship in Malaysia, Onaolapo joined ADC Ponta Do Pargo in the elite Portuguese league in 2016.
Since joining the club on September 2016, Onaolapo has played 11 games losing three, just as his efforts have helped the team to remain second behind Sporting Lisbon on the league table.
In his last ITTF World Tour in 2015 at the Spanish Open, Onaolapo failed to make from the group but having tasted top level matches in the Portuguese league, as well as playing against top players, Onaolapo says he owes his recent resurgence to the exploits of his compatriot, Aruna Quadri, who he described as an inspiration to a lot of Nigerian players.
“I think Aruna Quadri has shown that with hard work and focus one can achieve whatever he desires in life. Now we don’t have any option than to aim high because if Aruna Quadri can do it there is nothing stopping us from attaining bigger heights in the sport. Aruna Quadri has given a lot of us hope that we can do it.
“That is why in 2017, I intend to attend at least five ITTF World Tours in Europe because it is easier for us now that we are playing in Europe unlike in the past that we had to travel from Nigeria to attend competitions,” he said.