Nigeria’s quest for promotion to Division One suffered a setback at the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships when the Segun Toriola lost narrowly to England in the quarter-final stage.
The country therefore settled for the seventh place in Division Two.
A statement from the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) said from the performance of the team in Tokyo, Japan, it was obvious that this was an outstanding outing for the team at the championships.
“However, the encounter against England has also put the team in good frame for the 2014 Commonwealth Games holding in Glasgow, Scotland in July,’’ it said.
It added that England dominated Nigeria in most of their meetings but with what transpired in Tokyo at the weekend, Nigeria had returned to its fine form with the excellent performance.
The country was represented by the quartet of Toriola, Aruna Quadri, Ojo Onaolapo and Kazeem Makanjuola.
“Having come through from the group to beat Turkey in the knockout stage, the team started the match against England on a good note when Quadri, who finished 16th at the 2014 Spanish Open beat Paul Drinkhall 12-10, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6 to give Nigeria a 1-0 lead.
Drinkhall had won the Spanish Open a few weeks ago in the city of Almeria in Spain but against Quadri he was beaten “black and blue”.
The statement said Toriola improved on the lead, when he fought well to defeat Liam Pitchford, 10-12, 12-10, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6.
But the turning point for the English side was against Onaolapo, who was beaten 11-5, 11-7, 11-6 by Daniel Reed.
This put the overall result at 2-1 with Nigeria leading.
The win against Onaolapo brought out the best in the British players that went to win their next two matches against Quadri and Toriola.
In the fourth game, Pitchford avenged Drinkhall’s loss to Quadri, when he overwhelmed Quadri 5-11, 11-6, 5-11, 6-11.
Drinkhall, however, rounded up the game with 6-11, 11-9, 5-11, 9-11 win over Toriola to put the overall result at 3-2.
England captain, Drinkhall, admitted after the match that the encounter against the Nigerians remained the most difficult game for them in the tournament.
“We’re really happy to have come through; we had a difficult start to the match with me losing the first match.
“I think if I would have won that, we might have won 3-0; this was the first real test for our team and I am happy we made it through. I think we can take this match as positive,” Drinkhall said.
Also, table tennis buffs lauded the Nigerians for giving a good account of themselves against England as well as their overall performance in the competition.
“I never expected much from the Nigerians but since the start of the tournament, they have proved to be a good team, especially with what they played against England.
“I think they are a good side and they just need to continue the run of fine form to get back to the elite division. I wish them well,” said Japan’s Ishikawa Juan.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian female team also gave a good account of themselves in the classification match to avoid relegation with win over Peru, Turkey and Israel.
The wins ensured that the team remained in division two for the next edition of the competition holding in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016.
The performance of Nigeria will surely improve their world rating when the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) releases the next world ranking after the championship.
Meanwhile, the 11th Aso Table Tennis Club (ATTC) Championships has been postponed indefinitely following the recent bomb blast at Nyanya area of Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the tournament was scheduled to take place at the Indoor Sports Hall of the Abuja National Stadium, from May 5 to May 11.
Olusegun Ajuwon, Chairman of ATTC, told newsmen in Abuja on Sunday that the competition was postponed in order not to endanger the lives of no fewer than 300 athletes expected to participate in the event.
He also said that the closure of government offices, including schools in Abuja from May 7 to May 9, for the World Economic Summit also necessitated the postponement.
Ajuwon said that a new date would be communicated to the public as soon as normalcy was restored.