As one of the ageing players in Africa, Saka Suraju of Congo Brazzaville is hoping to make it to the last 32 at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

On record, Saka Suraju is the first table tennis athlete from the Central African nation to feature at the Olympic Games when he made his debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in China alongside Chinese-born Yang Fen.

Again, Saka Suraju will return to the stage at Olympic Games in Brazil after making it through the African Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Sudan early this year.

In readiness for the Rio Olympic Games, Saka Suraju with teammates – Wang Jianan and Han Xing are at present honing their skills at the ultra-modern Kintele Stadium in Brazzaville under the guide of their Chinese coaches.

A confident Saka Suraju, who recently turned 40, will be making her third appearance at the Olympic Games having featured in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and now Rio 2016 believes he would want to make a meaningful impact in Brazil.

“I am happy making it to my third Olympic Games but I must admit that it was not an easy ride to Brazil. After failing to qualify at the 2015 African Games, I had to fight for one of the two slots at the African Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Sudan. I was a bit nervous during the competition because some of the younger players were keen to be in Brazil. But despite my lack of preparation for the tournament, my experience and knowledge of the sport came to fore and I made it,” he said.

Prior to the camping exercise in Brazzaville, Saka Suraju was in Lagos for the 2014 Premier Lotto Nigeria Open but he met his waterloo in the men’s singles round of 16 against Egypt’s Khalid Assar. “I think my coming to Lagos was part of my preparation for the Olympic Games. I wanted to assess myself against other top players. Apart from this, playing in Lagos has been unique because of the support of the fans which I think has been the best we have ever had in Africa. The Lagos fans are just unique because their support is another motivation for the players. They support any player regardless of his or her country and what they enjoy is good game. Even if any Nigerian is not playing well, they are willing to continue to support such player and this alone is an inspiration to the player. I was not really disappointed with my performance but I just needed to work harder for the Olympic Games,” he admitted.

However, Saka Suraju wound not want to remember his misfortune at previous Olympic Games as his target is to make it to the last 32 of the men’s singles in Rio.

“I think I can make it to the last 32 because I have been training hard and for me Olympic Games is a different platform for every player and with the new system introduced, I believe every player going to the games has chance to do well. At least only two players can represent each country in the singles and this has given me hope that I can go further in the competition,” he said.