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.
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.
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.
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.