Nine Nigerian table tennis players have secured tickets to participate in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games following their superlative performances at the ongoing 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 23 September.
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.
Top on the list of the Nigerian players that sealed their berths in Paris were couple Kayode Alabi and Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi.
The duo with this heroic feat 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 set the tone; winning the country’s first ticket to Paris 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.
However, Egypt’s trio of Ola Soliman, Fawzia ElShamy, and Hagar Elsayed picked the other tickets in women’s classes one, three, and eight as champions respectively.
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 qualifying for 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.
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, 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.
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 bursting into a big jubilation.
The 2024 Paralympic Games will take place from 28 August 28 to 8 September 2024 in Paris, France.
This will be the first time that France will be hosting the Summer Paralympic Games.
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