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PARALYMPICS

Paralympics Committee of Nigeria opens camp, targets more Paris 2024 tickets

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The National Stadium in Lagos has come alive as the table tennis team heading to Egypt for the Paralympic Games qualifiers began camp just as the Paralympics Committee of Nigeria (PCN) seeks more tickets for Paris 2024.

 

Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Lesotho and five others are expected to converge in Cairo, Egypt from September 20 to 23 for the 2023 African Para Table Tennis Championships which is a qualification tournament for Paralympic Games and Commonwealth.

Isau Ogunkunle, Faith Obazuaye, Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi top the list of Nigerian contingent to the tournament.

Already the players have arrived from their various bases in Lagos for the final preparation for the qualifiers as Ogunkunle, Obazuaye target their second appearance at the Paralympic Games while Ikpeoyi will be aiming for her first outing at the games.

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Also, President of PCN Sunday Odebode  said that Nigeria would be aiming for more slots at the Paralympic Games, and they are ensuring that the team slug it out well with Egypt, the leading country in Africa in para table tennis.

Being the final preparation before their departure next week to Egypt, Obazuaye, a two-time Commonwealth Games medallist believes she is aiming for a medal in Paris after narrowly missing out from podium at Tokyo 2020.

“I think I am ripe for a medal at the Paralympic Games as I was unlucky to have missed out from the podium in Tokyo being my first appearance.

“I am now experienced enough to know what I need to do to ensure I pick a medal in Paris,” the Edo State-born national champion said.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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PARALYMPICS

India, South Africa, Kenya, others for ValueJet ITTF Lagos Para Open

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Chairman, Para Division of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) Elderson Bankole (left); LOC Chairman, Valuejet ITTF Lagos Para Open, Sunday Odebode; ITTF Para Events and Classification Manager Pablo Perez and Head of Business Development, Valuejet, Temitope Ajijola

Commonwealth Games champion India, Kenya, Uganda, Benin Republic, Togo, South Africa and hosts – Nigeria are among the teams that will compete at this year’s ValueJet ITTF Lagos Para Open which serves off on Thursday October 12.

It will run till Saturday 14 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.

Speaking at the press conference held on Tuesday in Lagos, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Sunday Odebode said the tournament has received the full sanction by the world table tennis ruling body while the tournament has helped to unearth more top stars for Nigeria.

Specifically, Odebode said that most of the athletes that qualified for Paris 2024 Paralympic Games at the recent African Championships held in Giza, Egypt are products of the tournament while more players would emerge as majority of them are now been classified by ITTF.

“We are so happy that the tournament is now Factor 20 on ITTF calendar, which means players aiming to qualify for the Paralympic Games can come and compete and pick the necessary points to shore up their ranking.

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“Now that it is fully sanctioned by ITTF, we are hopeful that more countries will identify with the tournament in near future.

“For this year, we have six countries including Nigeria competing and we are going to have the singles, mixed doubles and doubles events to prepare the players ahead of the Paralympic Games,”        Odebode who is also the President of Paralympic Committee of Nigeria (PCN) said.

In his remarks, ITTF Para Events and Classification Manager Pablo Perez lauded the organisers of the annual tournament as an avenue to develop the players and the sport.

“I am so excited that this tournament has continued to improve the Nigerian players and this was reflected in their performance at the just concluded African Championships where nine of them qualified for the Paralympic Games in Paris next year.

“I can see that more players are coming through and this is the result of regular tournaments for players and this has confirmed Nigeria as the best in Africa and one of the top teams in the world.

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“I am so excited returning to Nigeria again and I hope that more teams and countries will be coming to be part of the tournament following the exploits of Nigerian players in major competitions across the world,” Perez said.

For the Head of Business Development, Valuejet, Temitope Ajijola, the company would continue to support para sport especially with the impressive display of the athletes in Egypt where nine of them picked their tickets to Paris 2024.

“Apart from our businesses, sports remain our second priority and with what we are seeing in para table tennis, we are encouraged to do more and we are committed and we will continue to support the sport across the country,” he said

 

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PARALYMPICS

Nigeria sweep stakes at African Para Championships

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Nigeria emerged the overall champion of the 2023 ITTF African Para Championships which ended on Saturday September 23, 2023 in Giza, Egypt.

The three-day tournament had hosts – Egypt – Algeria, Nigeria, Mauritius, Cameroon, South Africa, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire competing in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles events.

Nigeria carted home 12 gold medals to dethrone Egypt as the new para table tennis champion in Africa. The Nigerians asserted themselves as the new heavyweights in the continent’s para table tennis by dominating the singles event to pick up most of the tickets to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

From the 14 tickets available for the Paralympic Games, Nigeria picked nine while Egypt settled for five in the singles events. However, the host team dominated the doubles and mixed doubles events with five gold medals while Nigeria picked two.

In the overall medals table, Nigeria picked 12 gold while Egypt won 10 to surrender their dominance to the West African nation.

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President, African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), Khaled El-Salhy commended all the participating teams and described the tournament as a success, especially with the facilities and hospitality provided by the Egyptian Table Tennis Federation (ETTF).

 

“I am so happy that we have an improvement in the participation this year, especially with the number of countries that featured in this year’s tournament. The players gave a good account of themselves; they showed their quality judging from the matches.

“I congratulate the ETTF and the government of Egypt for being good hosts and I hope our players will make the continent proud when the Paralympic Games takes place next year in France.

“I must also thank the ITTF for their support and I hope other African countries will focus on para sports so that we can all be in tune with the ideals of the ITTF,” El-Salhy said.

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Nigeria pip Egypt to Paralympic Games tickets

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Team Nigeria won the majority of the tickets to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games at the ITTF African Para Championships taking place in Giza, Egypt.

Host – Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Algeria are taking part in the three-day tournament which ends on Saturday September 22.

From the 14 tickets available to Paris at the continental showpiece, Nigeria claimed nine while Egypt picked five as the two nations continued their dominance in Africa.

Also, Nigeria couple Kayode Alabi and Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi became the first African couple to qualify for the Paralympic Games after securing their maiden ticket at the continental tournament in Egypt.

Nigeria’s Faith Obazuaye won the first ticket after emerging champion in class 10 of the women’s singles. In successive sessions, Nigeria added more tickets in women’s class nine and five with Kehinde Lawal and Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi dominating their events as champions.

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However, Egypt’s trio of Ola Soliman, Fawzia ElShamy and Hagar Elsayed picked their tickets in women’s class one, three and eight as champions respectively.

Egypt’s Sayed Youssef joined his compatriot, Samed Eid-Saleh, as the second Egyptian table tennis star to qualify for five Paralympic Games. Youssef, who has been unbeaten in the last 15 year in class seven of the men’s singles, featured at Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, and Tokyo 2020. Now he is making a return to the games, with a chance to exceed his fifth-place finish at previous editions.

Also, Khaled Ramadan of Egypt claimed the ticket in class three after dominating most of his compatriots in the event to emerge as champion of the continent.

However, Nigeria dominated the men’s singles event, picking the majority of the tickets with four of the six athletes who qualified making their debut at the Paralympic Games.

Olufemi Alabi and Victor Farinloye will be making a return to the games after their outing at Tokyo in the men’s class 10 and eight.

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Isau Ogunkunle, Bolawa Akingbemisilu, Kayode Alabi and Abiola Adesope won their respective classes to be counted among the athletes heading for Paris in 2024.

The star match of the finals was the battle for the slot in class four involving unbeaten African champion and five-time Paralympian Eid-Saleh of Egypt and Nigeria’s Ogunkunle.

Ogunkunle, a Commonwealth Games medallist, lost the ticket to the Egyptian in 2019 during his debut appearance at the continental tournament. He was also on the receiving end at the Saudi Arabia Open earlier this year where he was beaten 3-1 by Eid-Saleh.

But it was a different scenario in the final on Friday September 22, as Ogunkunle, coached by one of Nigeria’s most experienced Paralympians, Nasiru Sule, dominated the encounter from the start, threatening to make it a rout.

However, the Egyptian delayed the match by winning the second game in which the Nigerian had led for the most part.

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Recalling what befell him in 2019, Ogunkunle played with more precision and ensured that his opponent was pressured to commit more errors. This paid off for the Nigerian who ended the tie 3-1, thus qualifying for his maiden Paralympic Games, a feat he celebrated by busting into a big jubilation.

 

 

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