When Olajide Omotayo was bundled out in the last 32 of the ITTF Challenge Seamaster Nigeria Open last month, he was devastated but he never stopped believing in himself.
He departed Nigeria for his new base in Germany and he went to work after knowing that he would be part of the Nigerian team to the 2018 ITTF African Championships in Mauritius.
From the start of the tournament on September 3, Olajide Omotayo was very quiet but he featured in some of the group matches in the men’s team event.
From the first round of the men’s singles, nobody noticed his resurgence until when he faced the number three seed – Mohammed El-Beiali of Egypt in the round of 16.
He put everything into the game curtailing all the tactics of the Egyptian and when he mattered he lifted his game to cause a major upset with a 4-2 win over the Arab Champion.
As if that was not enough, few minutes later he returned to the table to face another Egyptian – Shady Magdy in the quarterfinal.
Even when the Egyptian was leading, he never gave up as he continued to his precise backhand which most times dazzled his opponent. To the admiration of the fans at the Beau Bassin Sports Complex, Olajide Omotayo won 4-3 to set up a semifinal clash with compatriot – Aruna Quadri.
“I think after I lost to Mamhoud Helmy in Lagos, I was so down and I just had to encourage myself. I went to work in my new base in Germany and I started working hard but I set a target for myself in Mauritius which was to get to the semifinal of the men’s singles. But I kept this to myself and continued to work hard,” he said.
“Before the match against Mohammed El-Beiali, I made sure I always his matches in most competitions and I noticed that if I work hard I can beat.
“So what happened in the match was just the positive of my training and exposure in the last one year. I had featured in several tournaments and this has reallh helped my confidence and made me to believe in myself a lot,” the 23-year-old said.
The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games silver medalist is excited about his performance in the tournament admitting, “I think the win against the two Egyptians has taken away the devastation he was when he was beaten in Lagos by an Egyptian.
“I am happy with the result I have achieved so far and I am looking forward to the semifinal clash against my compatriot. But I am not going to relent as I hope to continue working hard even after the tournament,” he added.
Three Nigerians and three Egyptians will be playing in the semifinal of men and women singles events on the final day of the tournament.
Aruna Quadri will face Omotayo while Egypt’s Ahmed Saleh will battle Segun Toriola in the men’s singles semi-final.
Egypt’s Dina Meshref will square up against Nigeria’s Edem Offiong while Amira Yousry will face the winner between Egypt’s duo of Yousra Helmy and Reem El-Eraky in the women’s singles semifinal.