Anambra State was the dominant force as the south eastern teams gathered for badminton contest. Team Anambra topped, winning a total of 10 medals comprising of three gold, two silver and five bronze.
They were followed by the host state, Enugu who had two gold, five silver and three bronze medals. Abia State came third with two gold a silver and two bronze medals.
None of the teams went back blank as all featured on the medals table. Ebonyi placed fourth with two gold and seven bronze medals while Imo had a gold and two silver and two bronze medals.
The excitement on the players was palpable. Most were having competitive outing for the first time. Never before had a badminton contest held for the five-state region.
Great thanks for the initiative of the leading sports betting firm, Bet9ja. So for the first time ever, players of the five eastern states of Nigeria gathered for a badminton tournament.
For three days, the championship featured contests among senior and under 20 male and female players as well as among veterans.
Held at the indoor sports hall of Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, the project was the brain child of Obiageli Edoga Solaja, the South East representative on the board of the Badminton Federation of Nigeria (BFN).
She is also the Badminton Confederation of Africa’s winner of the African Women in Badminton Award for 2019 and Nigeria’s first badminton player at the Olympic Games.
She remarked that apart from playing her role as the representative of the South East on the board of BFN, she felt obliged to give back to the zone that produced her and nurtured her to international stardom in badminton.
It was in Enugu that she was discovered when at 15, she represented the old Anambra State (now comprising Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi) at the National Sports Festival in Kaduna in 1977.
Her appetite to give back to the society had seen her teaming up with Community Sport and Educational Development (CSED) to organise a two-day grassroot badminton clinic at St Theresa’s College, Nsukka, Enugu State.
At the Bet9ja South East Badminton Championship which her South East Badminton Outreach organised, each participating state is featuring 12 players.
In both the senior and u-20 categories, there were contests in male and female singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles. The veterans featured in singles and doubles.
Cash prizes and trophies were given to the players from the winners to the eighth placed.
A total of 78 players who hitherto have not had opportunity of converging for competition featured in what turned to be their dress rehearsals for the National Sports Festival holding next month in Delta State.
“That’s one of the objectives”, remarked Obiageli Edoga Solaja, the convener of the championship. She thanked Bet9ja, the preferred sports betting firm in the South East, for their giving back to the society.
Solaja, thanked the federation’s president, Francis Orbih for his support alongside that of Dr. Emeka Ofora, a lawyer and Super Agent of Bet9ja in Enugu.
As the championship got to the finals, it was an all Anambra final match in the men’s singles as Jovita Aniekwe beat Emeka Uzukwu.
In the women’s singles, Imo State won what turned to be their only gold medal.
Queen Sunday beat home girl, Esther Chidolue to live up to her name, Queen and be declared the Queen of Badminton in the East.
Proving their mettle as the lead badminton state from the East, Anambra won the men’s doubles as the pair of Jovita Aniekwe and Emeka Uzukwu who contested the singles finals unite to beat another Anambra State pair of Chidiebere Onwe and Nzuba David.
Anambra were not done yet. The pair of Jovita Aniekwe and Bridget Adaa beat Enugu State’s Ifejika Godswill and Esther Chidolue to win the mixed doubles.