By Neha Aggarwal
Olufunke Oshonaike champion at 41 years of age
A common saying is that “age is just a number.” Today at the final day of the 2016 ITTF Africa Senior Championship, Olufunke Oshonaike proved this point well. She beat the 22-year old Egypt’s Dina Meshref 4-2 (7-11, 11-13, 11-5, 11-9, 7-11, 7-11) in a nail biting thrilling encounter to clinch the women’s singles title.
It is Olufunke Oshonaike’s third African Championship title after winning in 1992 and 2002. Additionally, winning after 14 years, at the age of 41 is certainly commendable. After her win she said, “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 two-two my coach, Segun Toriola told me not to give up and I kept on going and it worked for me at last.”
The win is certainly very special to Oshonaike. She won Nigeria’s second gold medal at this championship. Her other teammates could not take part in the championship as they were denied funding by the Nigerian Sports Ministry. Thus Oshonaike’s victory probably indicates that Nigeria lost at least two medals that it could have won in the Women’s Team and Women’s Doubles events if Oshonaike had teammates. Despite this, Oshonaike’s victory is a learning lesson for all women and men and that she is certainly a role model for many young girls.
“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 in as much 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.
Omar Assar wins Men’s Singles title
It was the first time that Quadri Aruna reached the semi-finals of the African Championship. He beat Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh in straight games to make it to the finals. From the other side, Egypt’s Omar Assar upstaged teammate El-Sayed Lashin in six games to move to the finals. This was Assar’s fourth final appearance. He was the runner-up in 2010 and 2012, and winner in last year’s edition in 2015. Omar was definitely aiming to win again for the second time.
Aruna on the other hand, had a point to prove too, Nigeria had lost twice to Egypt earlier this week (Men’s Team and Mixed Doubles). Personally, he wanted to win his first African Championship and the third gold medal for the team. Thus the clash was intense.
There is always one winner but today in Agadir, something spectacular happened. Omar Assar beat Quadri Aruna 4-3 (10-12, 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-9). The match was much more intense than what the score-line indicates. Both the players displayed a breathtaking show of world class table tennis and played each point as if it was the last one. Describing the match, Assar said, “It was really a crazy match because against Aruna is always very exciting. I think I gave my 100 percent concentration and I was listening more to my coach, Helmy Ashraf.”
In the thin line between winning and loosing, Omar Assar emerged victorious today but Quadri Aruna gave in his best, like he always does.
“I think Aruna played very well because he was always changing service and he was more aggressive on his forehand. I am so happy retaining the title and I hope I can play better than this in future tournament.”- Omar Assar
The 2016 ITTF Africa Senior Championship thus ended with Egypt winning four gold and two silver medals and Nigeria winning two gold and thee silver medals.