Sydney 2000 Paralympics gold medalists Tajudeen Agunbiade and Olufemi Alabi were the heroes as Team Nigeria brushed aside their opponents to come out tops in the final of the men’s class 9 & 10 events at the maiden Valuejet Para Table Tennis Open which ended at the weekend in Lagos.
The three-day tournament, the first of its kind in Nigeria, attracted players from South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire with 44 titles at stake and N10.8m prize money up for grabs.
In the men’s team event, Tokyo 2020 bound Paralympians Tajudeen Agunbiade and Olufemi Alabi put up an effective partnership to help Nigeria see off the duo of South Africa’s Theo Cogill and Karim Bounedouha of Algeria.
The doubles tie ended 3-1 (7-11, 11-1, 11-9, 11-7) in favour of the duo of Agunbiade and Alabi.
Agunbiade also outlasted Bounedouha 3-2 (11-8, 16-18, 11-6, 5-11, 11-9 ) in a gripping singles encounter that regularly brought the boisterous to its feet as Nigeria won the event 2-0 win.
The Nigerian duo weren’t done as they continued their heroics in the singles class 9 and 10, claiming both titles to add to their medal haul at the tournament.
An excited Agunbiade described the victory as energy-sapping and called for more privately led initiatives to give para table tennis players more exposure to hone their craft.
“It was very tough match but me and my teammates are very happy to win the team event. I just want to use this opportunity to thank the sponsor, Valuejet for giving us this platform and urge other corporate organizations to support Para Table Tennis and expose us to more international tournaments to enable us to get to meet new players,” the 2000 Sydney Paralympic gold medalist said.
Kunle Soname, the chairman of tournament sponsors Valuejet, said the tournament will become a permanent fixture in the para table tennis calender and promised an even bigger edition in 2020.
“The table tennis tournament will be bigger than this next year. You can see a lot players around and this has been a huge success for the fact that this is the first time an event like this is holding in Nigeria and I got a whisper from the President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) that the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has written to make this an annual event in their calendar. For me, nothing can be more exciting than this,” Soname said.
The tournament was put together by the Sunday Odebode Foundation in collaboration with the NTTF with sponsorship support from Valuejet Airlines.