Tokyo Olympics: Nigeria's Funke Oshonaike proud of a seventh Olympics despite loss

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Nigerian table tennis player Funke Oshonaike competing at the Tokyo OlympicsNigerian table tennis player Funke Oshonaike became the first African woman to compete at seven Olympics at the Games in Tokyo

Nigerian table tennis player Funke Oshonaike remains proud of her efforts in Tokyo as she became the first African woman to compete at seven Olympics.

She also became the first female table tennis player to appear at seven Olympics and while she has ruled out an eighth Games she is not retiring just yet.

The 45-year-old exited Tokyo at the preliminary stage on Saturday as she was beaten by Liu Juan of the United States at the delayed Games.

"Overall, I think I've done exceedingly well at these Olympics. To get another opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics is special and I can only just stay proud," she told BBC Sport Africa.

"I may have lost early but I have to count my blessings, to attain a seventh Olympics as the first woman from Africa to do so is a remarkable thing for my career.

"Just think of it by multiplying four years by seven, then to be a part of this unbelievably special Olympics in Tokyo.

"Being the first African, first woman in Table Tennis to do it seven times, puts everything into proper perspective for me, so I have to be grateful."

Oshonaike first started playing table tennis at the age of 14, and just two years later she was part of Nigeria's team for the 1991 All Africa Games.

She made her Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996. She then went on to play at the 2000 Sydney Games, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Inspired at Rio

Nigerian table tennis player Funke Oshonaike carrying the Nigerian flag at the Rio Olympics opening ceremony

The 25-time Nigerian table tennis champion has now equalled the record of compatriot Segun Toriola as the only Africans with seven Olympic appearances.

It was at the previous Games in South America, where she was Team Nigeria's flag-bearer, that she decided to aim for a seventh appearance and join the exclusive table tennis club of seven,external-link comprising of male players.

As well as Toriola the others to compete in table tennis at seven Olympics are: Belgium's Jean-Michel Saive, Croatia's Zoran Primorac and Sweden's Jorgen Persson.

"I was motivated and pushed when I saw my compatriot Segun Toriola at the Rio Games being honoured and I realised this a table of men," she added.

"I said to myself that there are only men in this club, it's all I needed to change my mindset and stay in shape to attain same landmark.

"I endured a challenging five years mentally, physically and emotionally, all of this when I still had to deal with qualification for the Tokyo Games.

"After qualification, the coronavirus pandemic happened and then doubts started creeping in, I said probably it was not meant to be, then the cancelation happened.

"But here we are, a tough journey and I can finally say that I have completed the Olympics circle in a special way and at a special Games in Tokyo."

The future

After 30 years competing at the highest level, becoming an 11-time All African Games medallist and a three-time International Table Tennis Federation Africa Senior Championships winner, Oshonaike admitted she has given her all to the Olympics.

"I guess the next time you see me at the Olympics, I'll probably be an official or watching as a spectator because I am done," she explain to the BBC.

"The Olympic Games has been good to me. But now I need to focus on helping the younger ones attain their dream. I will keep playing and giving my best.

"I will be the first to walk away if I can no longer keep up the pace or give my best on the table."

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