The dominance of Egypt in the table tennis event at the ongoing 12th African Games was halted on Monday, August 26 after Nigeria and Algeria claimed gold medals in the women and men doubles event.
The rivalry between Nigeria and Egypt came to fore in the semifinal of the women’s doubles at the 12th African Games with the West African team halting the dominance of their North African counterpart.
Having ruled the team and mixed doubles events, the Egyptians were stopped from making a clean sweep of gold medals in the doubles event after they were beaten in the semifinal of the women’s doubles by Nigeria.
Nigerian pair of Edem Offiong and Cecilia Akpan stopped Egypt’s Dina Meshref and Yousra Helmy from berthing in the final with a 3-2 (12-10, 11-9, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8) win to set up an all Nigerian affair in the final.
A comeback from Olufunke Oshonaike and Fatimo Bello against Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi and Katia Kessaci in the second semifinal was all Nigeria needed to make it to the final.
Oshonaike and Bello had to recover from 1-7 in the fourth game as they were down 2-1 (9-11, 11-8, 6-11) in major, but they held their nerve to win 10 points and ended the game 11-9 to put the match at par. In the deciding match, the Nigerian ladies led from start to finish to win 11-5 an set up an all Nigerian affair in the final.
In the final, involving the duo of Offiong and Akpan against the pair of Oshonaike and Bello, it was Offiong and Akpan that claimed the title they surrendered to Egypt in 2015 with a 3-2 (11-7, 11-6, 7-11, 2-11, 13-11).
In the men’s doubles final involving Egypt’s Mohamed El-Beiali and Ahmed Saleh against Algeria’s Sami Kherouf and Sofiane Boudjadja, it was the Algeria that made history to win their first-ever gold medal at the African Games.
Kherouf and Boudjadja defeated Saleh and El-Beiali 3-2 (11-13, 7-11, 11-2, 6-11, 8-11) to win the first event gold medal at the African Games.
An elated Kherouf said: ” It was an unbelievable thing to happen in Algeria because we have never won gold medal in table tennis of the African Games. It was a good feeling and pleasure for us to become the first set of players to achieve this feat.”
For Sofiane Boudjadja who marked her return to the game with a gold medal after over a year out, the victory would surely raise the profile of the game in Algeria.
“I am so excited especially having been out of the game for over a year and this competition is my return to sport. I am so happy that we are achieving this feat for our country and this means more money for the sport in Algeria and many kids would be inspired to play the game. I am so happy and I believe the whole country will celebrate this feat at home,” he added.