Team Nigeria’s Funke Oshonaike has emerged as first woman in history to enter the exclusive ‘Club 7’ of Olympians following her induction by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) on Monday in Japan.
The 46-year-old table tennis star joined Segun Toriola as the second Nigerian and indeed African to be inducted into the exclusive ‘Club 7’. Toriola was inducted into the Club at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
Oshonaike was able to achieve what many athletes dream of, not once, but seven times after Tokyo 2020 became her seventh appearance at the Olympic Games.
She is also the second African athlete after Toriola in any sport to feature in seven Olympic Games.
The veteran table tennis star was presented with a certificate of authenticity, crafted in sterling silver and layered with white gold at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium Hall.
Oshonaike’s Olympic participation record dated back to her first Olympics at the 1996 Atlanta Games as she is the first woman to hold such in the ITTF.
She was sent packing from the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Games in the preliminary round after losing to USA’s Juan Liu in the women’s Table Tennis Singles.
Meanwhile, the minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, has become a beacon of hope for Team Nigeria athletes at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
With no spectator allowed into the Olympics event venues, the Sports Minister has become the lone fan cheering Nigerian athletes in their events, armed himself with Nigeria’s Green-White-Green flag.
Despite the not too impressive results for Team Nigeria so far at the Games, the Ogbomoso born politician turned sports administrator, however, remained solidly behind Nigeria’s athletes, charging them on.
At Elizabeth Anyanacho’s fight, where she lost 12-7 to double Olympic medalist and former world champion, Nur Tartar of Turkey, the Minister hailed her courage for a debutant in the Olympics to fight with so much vim and vitality.
“You’ve done well against a world champion. Keep your focus. The world will soon rise to salute you in the near future,” he told the 22-year-old Anyanacho after her defeat.
Dare was also on hand to console Offiong Edem when bowed out of the women’s singles event of the table tennis competition following 4-1 defeat to Lily Zhang of Team USA at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, despite winning the first set 15-13.
After beating Hungary’s Dora Madarasz in her opening round fixture, Edem failed to maintain the momentum as she fell 2-11 and 2-11 in the next two sets under nine minutes.
“you exhibited strength and talent. Nigeria thanks you for making the country proud at the Olympics.”
Amid the tumultuous Tokyo Olympics greatly affected by Covid-19, where athletes have seen their training and competition schedules affected and fans shut out from events, Dare has brought so much hope and confidence to Nigerian athletes.