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Nigeria, Egypt Get Tricky Draws For 2024 World Team Table Tennis Championship –

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Assar, Aruna, lead six other Africans to 2024 ITTF World Cups

Africa’s table tennis powershouses – Nigeria and Egypt have been handed tricky groups in the men and women events of the 2024 ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) taking place in Busan, South Korea.

 

The draw for the eagerly awaited WTTC Finals Busan 2024 was unfolded on Tuesday January 16, at the Busan e-Sports Arena, signifying a milestone as Korea Republic hosts this event for the first time.

Anticipation surges as the stage is now set.  In a month exactly, from 16 to 25 February, the pinnacle of table tennis talent from across the globe will vie for the prestigious title.

 

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All eyes were already on Busan as the battle lines were drawn. Fans turned out in force for the occasion and over 3.5m viewers tuned in to the broadcast to see just where their favourite teams would land.

 

The stellar audience hints at the atmosphere that waits around the corner when the matches get underway next month.

 

Nigeria’s men’s team has been drawn in Group 5 alongside Asian giants – Japan and Chinese Taipei as well as Czech Republic and Madagascar.

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The women’s team has Germany, Slovakia, Poland and Mexico to contend with in Group 3 as the top eights from the tournament get automatic tickets to Paris 2024 Olympic Games in France.

 

African champion Egypt will battle in Group 8 of the men’s event against Portugal, Romania, Iran and Thailand while their ladies’ team will slug it out against European teams – France, Czech Republic, Ukraine and Croatia in Group 8 as well.

 

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Algeria has been drawn in Group 4 in the men and women events as the men contend with France, Australia, Denmark and Austria while their women’s contingent will battle Chinese Taipei, USA, Thailand and Chile.

 

Following the withdrawal of Tunisia’s men and women teams as well as Mauritius’ women team, South Africa was listed among the contenders and they have been pitched against Japan, Brazil, Luxembourg, and Iran in Group 2 of the women’s event.

 

The defending champions, China, occupy the top-seeded positions in both the men’s and women’s team events as the Women’s Teams of China is placed in Group 1 with Hungary, India, Spain and Uzbekistan.

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While Hungary has a long history of winning medals in the championships, they will be hard-pressed to get past the defending champions.

Led by World No.1 Sun Yingsha, Team China is chasing their 23rd title in the event and are frontrunners to top the podium once again.

 

Both the Men’s and Women’s Teams events will see eight groups of five teams looking to advance to the knockout rounds.

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Each match is decided by best of five singles matches, with individual matches being best of five games. Each group will play a round-robin, meaning each team faces off against the other four teams in their group.

 

After the round-robin is completed, the top three teams from each group advance to the knockout phase. Twenty four teams advance in total, getting a final shot at the title. Group winners will receive seeded positions, with the rest drawn into the knockout rounds in a way that ensures teams from the same group would not meet again in the first round.

 

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As the countdown to Busan 2024 enters its final month, fans worldwide can eagerly anticipate the world’s top teams vying for the coveted Swaythling and Corbillon Cups.

 

Across ten days of intense table tennis action, the event will not only showcase unparalleled skill but also mark a historic chapter in the Korea Republic’s legacy.

 

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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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Players talk tough as Nigeria’s national table tennis tournament hits a crucial stage

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Augustine Emmanuel of Lagos

From the way things are panning out at the 4th Michael & Felicia Alabi Memorial National Table Tennis Championships, it is obvious that the players are not ready to concede defeats to themselves as top seed Amadi Umeh affirmed his intention to clinch another national title in Otan Ayegbaju, Osun State.

Also, Akinwale Fagbamila and Augustine Emmanuel are battle ready to stun Umeh, whose national team experience will come to the fore when the main draws (round of 16) kick off on Wednesday, April 24.

The annual tournament, which has been upgraded to a national ranking event by the national table tennis ruling body, the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), is organised by the Osun State Table Tennis Association (OSTTA) with support from the Michael & Felicia Alabi Memorial Foundation as well as Canada-based Jodal Health Care had players from 28 states across the country competing in 14 events.

Also, the finals of the deaf and para events will take centre stage as dignitaries across Osun are expected to grace the event as a build-up to the grand finale on Friday, April 26.

Umeh, who won one of the national tournaments in 2023 and was part of the national team for the 13th African Games, believes he would be unstoppable in the men’s singles. “I don’t see anyone stopping me here because I am familiar with most of them, and they are no match for me. But I will not underrate them, as I am here for business, which is to take home the grand prize. I must also commend the sponsors for raising the standard of the tournament this year because the organisation has been much better than the previous editions,” the Edo State star said.

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But the duo of Fagbamila and Emmanuel are ready to rock the boat with Umeh when the main draws take off.

In the women’s singles, top seed Bisola Asaju will contend with Sukurat Aiyelabegan, who has a national title to her credit, and it promises to be exciting when both players try to fend off other contenders from clinching the title.

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Assar hits 14th, Aruna remains static in 19th in latest ITTF Ranking

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Assar, Aruna, lead six other Africans to 2024 ITTF World Cups

For his second-round finish at the 2024 ITTF World Cups in Macao, Omar Assar has risen to 14th in the 2024 Week 17 of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) due to be released on Tuesday, April 23.

The three-time African Games champion became the only African that progressed to the second round in the men’s singles after beating Iran’s Nosham Alamiyan and Sweden’s Truls Moregard to top Group 16.

The Egyptian has been in fine form since his 4-3 triumph over Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna at the 13th African Games in Ghana and his performance has rubbed positively on his ranking fortunes as he broke into the top 16 after Ghana’s win.

Following a remarkable performance in the group stage at the ITTF World Cup, Assar was set up against Japan’s Shunsuke Togami and in a hard-fought match, it was the Japanese that triumphed with as a 4-2 (11-7, 12-14, 11-8, 10-12, 11-5, 11-3) win to stop the unbeaten run of the 2023 African Cup champion.

From 16th spot in Week 17, Assar rose to 14th as the best rated African in the world and considered as his career best ranking. He will be heading to next month’s African Cup in Kigali, Rwanda, where he aims to defend his title against some of the finest players in the continent.

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Meanwhile, Aruna who managed a 4-0 victory over Daniel Gonzalez of Puerto Rico and later lost 1-3 to Portugal’s Marcos Freitas to exit in the first round of the ITTF World Cups, remained static in 19th place in the world rating.

 Despite withdrawing from the ITTF World Cups, Egypt’s Dina Meshref maintained his status as the best ranked African in the world rated 24th while her compatriot – Hana Goda is second in the continent ranked 30th in the world.

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Bigwigs await qualifiers in main draws of national table tennis championships

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Top seeds are still in their relaxed mood in anticipation of facing up against qualifiers in the singles events of the 4th Michael & Felicia Alabi Memorial National Table Tennis Championships taking place in Otan Ayegbaju in Osun State.

The Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF)-sanctioned ranking event is organised by the Osun State Table Tennis Association (OSTTA) with support from the Michael & Felicia Memorial Foundation and Cadana-based Jodal Health Care attracted record entries from 28 states across the country.

The likes of Amadi Umeh of Edo, Akinwale Fagbamila of Ondo and Augustine Emmanuel of Lagos as well as Rivers’ Bisola Asaju and Kwara’s Sukurat Aiyelabegan enjoyed rest day on Day One of the national ranking tournament as some of the unseeded players slug it out in their bid to join the tops seeds in the main draw of the competition.

From the format of the tournament, eight players have been seeded in men and women singles events while others will battle for the eight slots each available in the main draw of the men’s and women’s singles events.

For the first time, deaf players will battle in the men’s and women’s singles event while para-athletes will jostle for honours in four events being part of the inclusiveness initiative by the organisers.

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On Day 2, April 23, U-15 boys and girls will begin their quest for glory from the knockout stage while the doubles events will take centre stage.

According to the competition manager, Segun Peters, this year’s tournament witnessed a huge improvement from the previous editions in terms of organisation and other logistics for participating teams and players.

Specifically, Peters lauded the sponsors for the hospitality as well as the conducive environment put in place for the players to showcase their talents.

According to NTTF, the tournament would be used to rank the players nationally for this year.

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