Table-Tennis: Aruna pings into Olympics second round in London
The biggest upset of the first two sessions came in the men's singles, when Nigeria's Quadri ARUNA beat Carlos MACHADO (ESP) 4-2. The 23-year-old Nigerian is ranked a lowly 236, while MACHADO was once 57 in the world, although his ranking is currently 80.
The first two sessions of table tennis at ExCeL saw some respected veterans sign off on what could be the swansong of their Olympic careers.
In the women's singles, five-time Olympian Olufunke OSHONAIKE (NGR) won her preliminary match, but lost 4-0 in the first round to Italy's TAN Wenling.
TAN, a player 200 places higher in the world rankings than OSHONAIKE, had too much variation and subtlety in shot selection for the Nigerian.
Another respected veteran taking part in her last Olympics was 41-year-old Berta RODRIGUEZ, who was quickly dispatched 4-0 in the women's singles by TIAN Yuan (CRO).
There was some success for Nigeria's six-time Olympic veteran, Segun TORIOLA. He defeated Canada's Andre HO 4-1 in his preliminary match, and his reward is a first round tie against former world champion Jorgen PERSSON (SWE). PERSSON is appearing at his seventh Olympic Games.
African table tennis received a further boost when Dina MESHREF (EGY) won two close games to book her place in the second round. After defeating Offiong EDEM (NGR) 4-2 in the prelimnary round, 18-year-old MESHREF overcame Russia's Yana NOSKOVA, the current World No.82, 4-3 in a thrilling match.
The game of the session saw Chinese-born ZHANG Mo (CAN) eventually overcome Turkey's HU Melek in a seven-game epic. HU led 3-1 and looked on course to win before ZHANG eventually prevailed 16-14 in a long final game.
The men's singles first round continues in the evening session. The women's second round starts in Saturday's evening session, continuing on Sunday.
Speaking after beating Andre HO (CAN) 4-1 (9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-5, 12-10) in a preliminary match at ExCeL on Saturday, Nigeria's six-time Olympian Segun TORIOLA said: "I knew my first match would not be easy as all the players are focused."
On his younger opponent HO, who is 2o, the 37-year-old added: "He is an inexperienced player. He is still young but he is going to be a good player because he played quite OK."
"I will play Jorgen PERSSON (SWE). I know him well, but I have never played him. It is seven Olympics for him - he was a world No.2 player but I feel confident."
However, after losing his first round match 4-1 against former world champion and seven-time Olympian Jorgen PERSSON (SWEDEN) at ExCeL, the devastated Toriola admitted that, "It didn't go so well. I'm a bit disappointed with the result."
Speaking on his future, he said:
"I don't think this will be my last match. I hope to be in Brazil in 2016 (Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games)."
"I will watch the replay and think about what went wrong. My opponent played well."
On fellow Nigerian player Quadri ARUNA, Toriola advised: "It is his first Olympics - he still has a lot to learn. My advice to him would be to practise, stay focused and be confident."
Meanwhile, Aruna QUADRI (NGR), after winning his first round table tennis match against Carlos MACHADO (ESP) 4-2, at ExCeL, on Saturday, described his attitude to the match, which resulted in world-ranked No.236 QUADRI clinching an upset victory over world-ranked No.80, MACHADO.
"At first I thought I had no chance. Then I believed I could win. I had nothing to lose. I did everything. I used my forehand and backhand tactics, and short service. My coach taught me to attack first. I feel great to have qualified for the next round."
On learning from teammate Segun TORIOLA (NGR), a six time Olympian:
"He taught me some of the tactics to use and encouraged me. The crowd were behind me because they have seen Segun play and know he gives his best."
After winning her preliminary round match against Neda SHAHSAVARI (IRI) 4-3 (11-13, 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4, 5-11, 11-3) at ExCeL on Saturday, Olufunke OSHONAIKE (NGR) stated: "I'm still shaking. I'm so very happy. I had to work very hard but, thank God, I managed it. I'm the first Nigerian athlete to compete here and I didn't want to bring everyone down."
On preparing for her next opponent, Ligia SILVA (BRA), she said, "I need to rest now. I didn't get much sleep last night because of the Opening Ceremony. I didn't get to sleep until 03.00. My next opponent is richer than me (ranked higher), so I have no worries. I just need to play my best, and if I win it will be great. The next game is not so important because I've already won one round. I can just be myself now."
Coach Richard Edem
After Olufunke OSHONAIKE (NGR) beat Neda SHAHSAVARI (IRI) 4-3 (11-13, 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4, 5-11, 11-3) in her preliminary round match at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Saturday, Nigerian coach Richard EDEM expressed his delight: "I am happy. Initially my girl (OSHONAIKE) was playing to the style of her opponent (SHAHSAVARI).
"But when I talked to her after she lost her first game (game one) she started playing to my instruction. In the last game she played very well."
On reaching the first round he said, "We had to win the opening (preliminary) game before you think about the first round. But now we are there the confidence can begin and we will look forward to how we can beat her next opponent (TAN Wenling, ITA)."
(Additional information from the ONS)