Busayo Olatunji is a top-rated Nigerian squash player. Presently ranked No.151 in the world, the 23-year-old has been playing the racket sport since she was 10.
Together with her elder sister, Yemisi Olatunji, Busayo is considered a strong competitor in the last couple of years in Nigeria.
In this exclusive interview with TOP MEDIA, the current Nigeria No.2 speaks on her participation in intercontinental tournaments and her rivalry with current Kwara State Athlete of the Year, Rofiat AbdulAzeez.
TOP MEDIA: You were part of the bronze-winning team of Nigeria at the Africa Championships in Zimbabwe. How was the experience? And was it different from the other international tournaments you’ve featured in?
Busayo: I was delighted to be part of the team to Zimbabwe. I learnt from different players.
Zimbabwe was different. The two times I went to South Africa, it was a knockout tournament.
It was my third time in Zimbabwe, and I can say the matches were tough because once you lose, you keep playing. There is no knockout. Once you lose, you move to another chart. So you keep playing till the final day.
It was okay for me because I get the chance to play a lot of players; different athletes from across the continent.
TOP MEDIA: You played handball competitively last year (2022). Are you genuinely looking to switch sports?
Busayo: I participated in handball competitions last year. As a student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), studying Human Kinetics, I do it (handball) as a course. Before that time, I have a lot of friends who used to go to Rowe Park (Yaba, Lagos), I see them play. I was attracted to the game. So upon getting to UNILAG, the lecturer teaching us the course who is a Handball official in Lagos State encouraged me to play.
From there, I entered Seasiders team, the Lagos State team. After that, I got enlisted into the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and participated in tournaments with them.
I think I love the game, because I get strength from there. You have to be quick and you have to be smart. It is actually similar to squash, because in squash too, you have to be quick, vigilant and you have to apply your sense.
But right now, I’m not planning to switch sports.
TOP MEDIA: Since your sister left, the battle for the top spot has been majorly between you and Rofiat AbdulAzeez. You two have had many great battles in the past few years. Which would you pick as the most difficult of your matches with her?
Busayo: Myself and Rofiat have been rivals for years, before my sister left the shores of Nigeria. When my sister was around, she is normally the favourite to win titles. Maybe me second, and then Rofiat.
Since my sister left, it has been competitive between me and Rofiat.
Last year (2022) was somehow choked for me because I was playing squash, handball and undergoing training in my office. So it was congested for me that I could not really concentrate. I had never been choked like that all my life. So I played a lot of tough matches with Rofiat, but there is this match that pained me, because I put in a lot of effort and really wanted to win, and that was a battle we had in Port Harcourt. It was 2-2, and in the last set, a minor error from me gifted her victory.
Spectators in that match expected me to win because she was leading me and I made a comeback, but it wasn’t enough at the end of the day.
Some persons have been calling me, asking why Rofiat is defeating me, I told them there is no champion forever. Rofiat won more tournaments than me last year. But I remember, for like three years, I was the one cutting her off from getting to the final. If she is beating me now, it means it is her time. She is coming up. That means she is training, and that means I also need more hardwork.
And I also love the competitiveness, because we want people to watch ladies’ final and issue verdict that ‘this is tough’.
For example, that Port Harcourt match, our final was over 1 hour. It is good for the game. You have to work for the victory. That is what makes you a real champion. Right now in the country, they know that Busayo versus Rofiat game is usually tough.