by Simon Daish
Nigeria’s Olufunke Oshonaike has now won the gold medal in the category on three occasions (1992, 2002, 2016 ), but the 2016 final had its tough moments for the 41-year-old player with Dina Meshref (EGY) giving it her all in her attempt to defend her title.
The Women’s Singles competition at the 2015 Africa Senior Championships saw Meshref claim the prize, while Oshonaike suffered a Round of 16 exit! However, one year on and the Nigerian competitor would go on to take the title out of Meshref’s hands.
Oshonaike made a positive opening to the 2016 final, claiming game one with a four point margin before moving 0-2 in front after edging the second end in deuce.
Then the match started to become even more interesting when Egypt’s Meshref pulled herself back into the tie, taking back-to-back games to bring the score level at 2-2.
With nothing separating the finalists after the opening four ends the match was brilliantly poised for a thrilling conclusion, yet despite her best efforts Meshref failed to capitalise on her momentum boost as Oshonaike stole games five and six to win her first Women’s Singles title at the African Championships for 14 years (7-11, 11-13, 11-5, 11-9, 7-11, 7-11).
Following the capture of her third trophy in the category Oshonaike spoke about her approach heading into the final and how her coach’s advice helped her to cross the finish line, “I knew it was going to be tough because Dina Meshref was the African Champion and she had been unbeaten in the last two years.” Oshonaike added, “I just told myself to go out there and have fun and show my experience and when it started to work I gained more confidence. But when the match was 2-2 my coach, Segun Toriola told me not to give up and I kept on going and it worked for me at last.”
“This victory means a lot to me that I can still become African Champion despite my age. It shows that nothing is impossible regardless of age inasmuch as you put your mind at it. I am so happy despite the challenges of making it to Morocco. I feel great and I am so excited that I can still do it and this is also an inspiration for girls that no matter your age, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to in life” – Olufunke Oshonaike (Nigeria).