Toriola’s African Games Record Hard To Beat, Says Assar

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Table tennis sensation Omar Assar has won the African Games men’s singles title three times (2011, 2015 and 2023), but the Egyptian rues the fact that he or any other African player of his era has not been able to equal and surpass the four consecutive titles record set by the Nigerian legend, Segun Toriola.

Toriola is the only player to have won the African Games men’s singles title four consecutive times – 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007). Despite claiming his third African Games title in Ghana last March, Assar seems to think that he has missed out on equaling Toriola’s record of four consecutive wins.

“I think winning four consecutive titles is very impossible,” Assar said. “But it is my dream to chase Toriola’s record because he is a great player, a legend of Africa and one of the best African players of all time.”

According to Assar, reclaiming the African Games title in Ghana – after surrendering it in 2019 – was a special moment.

“This title is very special. It means a lot to me for Egypt to win such a big title like the African Games again,” Assar added. “As we all know, this tournament happens once in every four years and everyone wants to win it.”

“Otherwise you will need to wait for another four years to prepare for the next one and you never know if you have four years or not. It really means a lot especially when you have to deal with injuries and a very busy schedule and many other circumstances.”

“I’m very grateful; it was a very great tournament,” he said.

Assar is glad to see that Nigeria has engaged the services of the legendary Toriola as coach of the national table tennis team. He believes this would help the young players to fulfil their potential in the game.

“It is very nice to see our legends come back to the venue again. When I see Egyptian or Nigerian legends coming back, it is really nice,” the Egyptian said. “What is important is to find harmony between the players and the legends. It is not so easy but I’m sure Nigeria would find a way.”

“I know Nigeria is a famous and strong team and I hope that the legendary Toriola and the players would find good harmony together for the players to do well in Africa and across the world as we are used to seeing in Nigerian table tennis.”

Reviewing his playing career thus far, Assar says he relishes every moment, especially playing in finals against his arch-rival, Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna.

“I think one of the connections between the African championship and the African tournament is the final between Aruna and I,” Assar added. “The fans are always waiting to see this match and they enjoy it. Win or lose, I always enjoy playing against Aruna.”

“I have a lot of respect for him. He is a great player from a great nation, Nigeria, where they have a great table tennis tradition. For me, I know that we will face each other 90 percent before any tournament and it is always a big part of my preparations.”

 

ITTF-Africa/Chidi Nwoke.

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