They recall the thrill of watching Lee Chong Wei play Lin Dan in the final like it was yesterday.
“I can imagine that match again,” says Opeyori, speaking of the epic final. “That is the ultra match. Imagine having such good memories inside your brain. Every time I close my eyes, it’s so inspiring.”
For Olofua, the sight of Lee Chong Wei was so mesmerising that he got the nickname Chong Wei.
London 2012 set them on the path to becoming badminton players in Nigeria, where the sport didn’t particularly have a strong imprint. Having fallen in love with the sport and pursuing it, the two Nigerians qualified for Tokyo 2020 after making the cut at No.50 in the world rankings.
“We can’t wait to travel to Tokyo and feel the vibes that finally we are able to participate in the Olympics,” says Opeyori. “I can’t imagine the happiness I have inside me, I can’t explain it. It changes my mood and cheers me up. Look at where we came from and where we are. London 2012 was the first time I watched the Olympics, I was watching Lee Chong Wei, I think he was playing Chen Long. I never thought I’d make the Olympics. When I think about it, I’m so glad.
“It means our hard work has paid off. We’re working hard and striving hard to achieve this level of achievement. It’s really satisfying.”
“Our families are excited because the Olympics is the biggest event in the world, so it’s a dream come true,” adds Olofua. “We kept believing. Anything you set your mind to, you can do it. In doubles we had to be in the top 50 in the world to qualify. We just had that faith that we could do it.”
Before the onset of the pandemic they had some good results in early 2020, making the finals of the Uganda International and the Kenya International. Recent months have thrown up harder challenges for both training and travel, but they play the All England where they took a game off Thailand’s Nipitphon Phuangphuapet and Tanupat Viriyangkura.
“We went to the All England for the points, we were satisfied with that. After the Olympics, there are the World Championships. We want to play that level of tournaments, so that we can achieve more in badminton. We want to explore the ultimate thing of playing badminton,” says Opeyori.
In the run-up to Tokyo they have been working with South African coach Stewart Carson at the national camp.
“We have been training consistently. We know by our performance we did well, like the way we played against the Thai pair, but we know we can do better,” says Olofua.
“We’re trying to build strong for Tokyo, we don’t want to go and just participate, we want to compete. We looked into it that this standard was not good enough, so we’re working hard on it. The Olympics is high standard, so we must give our best,” says Opeyori.