For the likable Olufunke Oshonaike, there was more to playing in the first round of the women’s singles event at the ITTF World Championship in China than the ardous weight of ambition on Tuesday.
The veteran Nigerian couldn’t have asked for better fortunes- more or less- in the first round of the women’s singles, despite having to trade her wits against the best in the world, China’s Ding Ning, in round one of the event, but coinciding with her birthday it was, better still, fun to lose to the best.
Top seed, Ning, made a walk of her face off with Funke in straight games 11-2 11-3 11-4 11-7, but there was no need being sore to the stomach for Oshonaike, rather than pose for a post-game selfie with her No. 1-ranked opponent and winner in Rotterdam in 2011.
“Today it’s my birthday and it is a wonderful gift for me to have had the opportunity to play against her”, Olufunke beamed at her ittf.com interviewer. “Today is my birthday; why should I be sad?”
Instead of wailing unnecessarily it was time for the Nigerian to reflect on the difficult task of representing motherland, in the absence of no trainer whatsoever.
Funke leaves in Germany and plays in the third division of the Bundesliga, but back in Nigeria; these athletes have no choice but to rely on the experience gathered from their club base.
Against Ding on Tuesday, Oshonaike had no one in her corner until Kazeem Makanjuola arrived after the start of the fourth game, while her highly rated opponent had an Olympic and World champion Kong Linghui by her side.
“Even when I was young I have always dreamed about this kind of opportunity; without a coach it made no difference”, added Olufunke.
“We have many problems with the government right now in Nigeria, we know our problems, we know for sure that we are going to do something about it.
“The players are ready, because we really want to surprise everybody. We want to return the glory to Nigeria; all the players are doing their best.”
Mixed outcome in the doubles
Fresh from accounting for Egypt’s pair of Nadeen El-Dawlatly and Dina Meshrefninnthe round of 64 of the women’s double event on Tuesday, the partnership between Sarah Hanffou of Cameroun and Funke hit the rocks in round two in Suzhou.
The intra-national duo recorded a five games win over El- Dawlatly and Meshref in the first round earlier on Tuesday (11-7 14-16 11-7 11-6 11-4) to set up the duo of Hu Melek of Turkey and Shen Yanfei of Spain in the round of 32.
Olufunke and her partner Sarah- a lawyer based in Paris seeded 39th in Suzhou- eventually succumbed to the tact ploy of the unseeded Hu and Shen when doubles action resumed later in the day, losing 13-11 8-11 11-6 11-6 11-3.