Nigeria’s male and female Junior Teams on Tuesday, April 9th, advanced to the finals of the team event at the ongoing ITTF African Junior and Cadet Championships taking place in Accra, Ghana. They have thus secured their spot at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Junior Championships (WJC) holding in Thailand in December.
Nigeria will be joined by Egypt at the WJC after the Egyptians also advanced to the finals in the Junior Category of the men and women’s team events at the ITTF African Junior and Cadet Championships which serves as qualifiers for the 2019 World Junior Championships (WJC).
In the boys’ semifinal tie, Nigeria had an easy 3-0 win over Togo while Egypt was made to work hard for their 3-1 victory over Tunisia.
Abayomi Animashaun, Taiwo Mati, and Azeez Solanke secured the 3-0 victory for Nigeria against the Togolese trio of Kossi Akakpo, Eke Victor Kueviakoe and Sedik Tchagole while Marwan Abdelwahhab, Abdelrahaman Dendan and Ahmed Elbhoramy filed out for Egypt in their 3-1 victory over the Tunisian team of Youssef Ben Attia, Aboubaker Bourass and Louay Hamrouni. Nigeria and Egypt will face off for the gold medal in the final today.
It wasn’t as easy-going for Nigeria in the Junior girls’ category as they had to dig quite deep to see off Mauritius 3-2 in the semifinal.
Sukurat Aiyelbegan, Iyanu Falana, and Vivian Oku lined up for Nigeria against the Mauritian trio of Sandhana Desscann, Oumehani Hosenally, and Nandeshwaree Jalim.
Sukurat Aiyelbegan was Nigeria’s mainstay in the encounter and she saw off Oumehani Hosenally (11-4, 5-11, 11-9, 11-6) and Nandeshwaree Jalim (10-12, 11-2, 11-9, 11-9) to keep Nigeria in the tie. With the fixture finely balanced at 2-2, it fell to Vivian Oku to play the hero and she duly delivered beating Oumehani Hosenally (6-11, 14-12, 11-6, 11-7) in the all-important decider to send Nigeria to the final and secure a spot in Thailand.
Nigeria will face Egypt in today’s final after the Egyptian team of Sara Elhakem, Hend Fathy and Alaa Yeha easily dispatched fellow North Africans, Tunisia in the other semifinal.
In the semifinals of other categories decided on Tuesday, Nigeria had to dig very deep to see off top seeds Egypt in a very tight match in the men’s U21 draw.
Taiwo Mati was the hero for Nigeria as he beat Marwan Abdelwahhab by the narrowest of margins (11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 12-10) in the fifth and deciding set to send Nigeria into the final. They will battle Tunisia for gold following the latter’s dismissal of Algeria in the other semifinal.
Nigeria made it a clean sweep of final spots and kept themselves in with a chance of securing all the gold medals in the men’s category when the duo of Taiwo Mati and Jamiu Ayanwale comprehensively whitewashed Marwan Gamal and Mohammed Sameh of Egypt 3-0 in the Cadet semifinals. Nigeria will face Tunisia in the final today.
In the female category, Nigeria won’t be represented in the final of the U21 event after the team failed to make it out of the group. Egypt and Algeria will battle it out for the gold today after both teams respectively saw off Tunisia and South Africa in the semifinals.
Nigeria will, however, have a presence in the Girls’ Cadet event after Sadiat Alimat Akeem and Sukurat Aiyelbegan secured a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Tunisian duo of Maram Zoghami and Farah Mahjoub. Egypt awaits Nigeria in the final after they also secured a closely fought 3-2 victory over Algeria in the other semifinal.
Ahead of the Junior Men’s final against Egypt, Nigeria’s Azeez Solanke has signaled his intention to ensure Nigeria comes out on top against the top seeds. Solanke said that the Egyptians are set to “meet their Waterloo” in today’s final.
“I am sure the Egyptians have been watching our game and they are also afraid of us. The fact that we have not been playing in the competition for the last two years has given them hope that they can ride over every team but I must tell you that they are going to meet their waterloo in the final, as we are ready for them. We want to leave Ghana with the giant trophy this weekend,” Solanke declared.
Meanwhile, the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) has commended the players for their conduct on and off the table in the last three days of the continental championship.
ATTF President, Khaled El-Salhy described the tournament as an eye-opener as new players have emerged while there has been an improvement in terms of standard of play.
“We are so excited with the quality of display by the players and this has shown that Africa has come of age. We have seen top class play from the players and we are not disappointed with their conduct and we hope as the tournament progresses more new players will come through for teams. We are also looking forward to an exciting final between two best teams in Africa,” the ATTF boss said.