by Olalekan Okusan, Press Officer, African Table Tennis Federation
Traditionally, the tournament has been the Top 12 Cup with the leading players in the country competing; once again many of the most prominent Cameroon names competed but the number of participants was increased.
Four more entrants were accepted in each of the three events, Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles and Veteran Singles. Thus the tournament followed the example set by the African Table Tennis Federation, who in 2014 inaugurated the ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup, alternating biennially with the ITTF-Africa Senior Cup.
Throughout, even before assuming office, the Cameroon event has always been sponsored by Alfred Bagueka Assobo, the President of Cameroon Table Tennis Federation and recently elected the Regional President of Central Africa; it was the same this year.
“I was inspired by recent evolutions at international level; two years ago, Africa launched the Top 16 with the first edition being held in Lagos in 2014 and the second edition last January held in Khartoum. Also Europe moved from Top 12 to Top 16 this year. It was the sportsmanship spirit that inspired me in order to ensure that all the players taking part in the competition have something to show for their effort in terms of playing for positions”, Alfred Bagueka Assobo
Intense competition was the order of the day. Christian Tsague emerged as the Men’s Singles champion beating Celestin Nguepnang in the final. The Women’s Singles title was secured by Bernice Bih, who overcame Sorèle Guimfack to secure the top prize; Paulin Vouffo beat Léopald Ngamaleu to be anointed the Veteran Singles champion.
Meanwhile, in the consolation events; in the decisive final matches Gilles Tsimi defeated Nicolas Ntamack to win the Men’s Singles competition, Alida Kepte won the counterpart Women’s Singles event by overcoming Vicky Thcanga, whilst Victor Tamtchouon ended the hopes of Nkeng Ngos to secure success in the Veteran event.
“Another inspiration came from what I saw during my participation at the recent World Veteran Championships held in Alicante in Spain last May. The existence of a consolation draw alongside a main draw gave an opportunity for players to be part of the competition, even after their early losses. Those who used to leave the venue after their defeat at the first round, learned to stay, since they were given the opportunity to continue the competition through the consolation draw.” Alfred Bagueka Assobo
Impressively, the four semi-finalists all received cash prizes; the winners being presented with very impressive trophies to mark their achievement.
Undoubtedly, the format of the tournament was well received as was the organisation with everyone being most well prepared. Notably, to acquaint the players with the new plastic balls, 120 balls were given to each participant.
“For the first time in any national event in Cameroon, the planning was done and implemented rigorously similar to international level, the equipment and materials used were those used during the 2015 African Cup”, Alfred Bagueka Assobo
Awards for the players, there was also an award for Alfred Bagueka Assobo; one year earlier Cameroon had hosted a most successful 2015 ITTF-Africa Senior Cup in Yaoundé.
In recognition of his efforts; agreed by the Executive Committee of the African Table Tennis Federation, deservedly he received the continent’s Merit Award.