Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri won the Male Table Tennis Star of the Year award and the Star Point award at the 2014 International Table Tennis federation (ITTF) Gala on Wednesday.
The Team Nigeria Table Tennis hot shot, named Nigeria’s Sportsman of the Year (2014) in November, headlined the second ITTF Star Awards gala evening at the world tallest building, the Armanu Hotel in Dubai, UAE.
Quadri got 29 per cent of the public vote and 27 per cent of the votes from the expert panel to beat world number one, China Xu Xin, his Joola team-mate, Fan Zhendong and Portugal’s Marcos Freitas.
Only public votes were considered in the Star Points category, with the exchange between the 26-year-old Oyo State native and Zhang Jike at the Liebherr Men’s World Cup less than three months ago in Düsseldorf, Germany claiming 33.50 per cent of the total vote.
The duel between China’s No. 2-ranked Ma Long and compatriot Fan Zhendong in the semi-final of the Men’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour China Open finished in runners-up position with 22.40 per cent of the vote
“Today is the best day of my career and my life,” Quadri, who is the highest-ranked African in the world on 30th position with 2246 points, said. “I will like to say thanks to the organisers of this event.
“We all deserve this, but I’m just lucky to have won. Thank you all fans for your votes and support.”
Quadri’s dogged spirit stole the show on the first two days of play at the TTF Men’s World Cup in Dusseldorf. During the last-eight duel with Jike, he managed to keep the ball in play in an exhilarating manner when all hope seemed lost to the delight of the crowd and his fans.
“I will like to dedicate this indomitable, unbelievable award to all my fans all around the world,” he concluded.
Moreover, 2014 was a breakthrough season for Quadri, who started the year, ranked 230th in the world but covered much ground over the following 12 months. Winner of the ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup hosted on home soil in Lagos in June, bronze medalist in the Men’s Team event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the never-say-die athlete reached the last-four of the ITTF Lagos Open championship and the quarter-finals of the ITTF Pro Tour in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
He ended the year in grand style with more of his awe-inspiring performances both on the GAC Group ITTF World Tour and at the Liebherr Men’s World Cup.
Quadri has now focused his attention on winning one medal that has eluded him for quite too long- a gold medal at the forthcoming ITTF-Africa Championships, billed for Cairo, Egypt, beginning on Friday 23rd January.