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Samuel Akinrinade
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Akinrinade: Youngest Male Player At National Youth Games ‘Birthed’ By Covid-19

The sheer joy of participating at a major event like the National Youth Games was enough for nine-year-old Samuel Akinrinade, the youngest tennis player at the competition.

The National Youth Games, is a multi-sporting event organized by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the National Sports Commission, and was first held in 2013.

Akinrinade, a Primary 3 student of Opeyeoluwa Basic School, Osogbo, Osun State, was a spectator at the 2021 edition of the Youth Games in Ilorin, eight years since its inception, but could not play because he was indisposed.

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The then seven-year-old watched from the sidelines, how his older compatriots were slugging it out on the courts and this incident surely motivated him to work hard to participate at the next edition.

Two years later, he would be representing Osun State at one of the biggest stages ever since he started playing tennis three years ago.

“When my dad first told me about playing in Asaba, I was very excited that I’d finally be playing,” the petit player told Nigeria Tennis Live during a brief chat on the sidelines of the court inside Grand Hotel, Asaba, venue of the Games in Delta State.

Thanks to Covid-19, young Akinrinade was first introduced to tennis by his father during the lockdown, where he had only the wall as his hitting partner.

According to the dad who doubles as the head coach for tennis in Osun State: “I started training him during Covid-19 in an uncompleted building as there were no facilities around to train with.

“All we had to train with was the wall in the building, and it really helped at the time, because it was all we could get to commence his training.”

Even though young Akinrinade started tennis relatively late, his enthusiasm on and off the court is a testament to the passion he has for the game and he showed it when he was hitting balls with his dad.

When it was time to compete, he played at his very best, but lost his first ever match at the National Youth Games, a Singles tie, 0-4, 0-4.

The Doubles ended in a more respectable scoreline of 0-4, 2-4, but the young Osun player cared less about the outcome. It was indeed a dream come true.

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Despite the results, this youngster believes he is on the right track to becoming a tennis legend like his idol, Roger Federer, whom he admires a lot for his style.

“His backhand and forehand are very dangerous, and I believe I will get there someday. I also love him because he does not fight on the court when he’s playing,” the young Akinrinade said about Federer with his trademark smile exposing his gap-tooth.

Asked if he has picked any aspect of Federer’s games, he replied: “I don’t know all those ones o” with a beautiful smile.

For someone who trains two-six hours four times a week despite academic activities, the stars are surely aligning for Akinrinade as a tennis player.

The mother is always happy and excited to see her son excel and thrive in the sports as the dad says she is also a lover of tennis.

Despite all these giant strides by Coach Olayinka Akinrinade in Osun, it seems the proverbial light expected at the end of their tunnel may remain dim, if at all it appears when they get there.

“Nothing is working in Osun tennis, my brother, we are only striving so hard to ensure that the sport does not die in the state.

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“We are really hopeful that the tennis association in Osun State will pick up and live up to the potentials at its disposal,” Akinrinade (Snr.) said with little excitement on his face.

If the essence of organizing the National Youth Games was to unearth new talents in each of the sporting events, the tennis event may have achieved its aim.

It is now left to be seen what the Nigeria Tennis Federation and by extension, the National Sports Commission, will do with these unearthed treasures from the Games.


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