13 Mar 2017

Bronze medallist just under one year ago when the tournament was staged in Algiers, Azeez Solanke is seeking not only to once again secure a place on the Junior Boys’ Singles podium at the forthcoming 2017 ITTF-Africa Junior and Cadet Championships, he aims to climb higher.

He leads the Nigerian challenge at the forthcoming tournament which starts in Tunis on Sunday 9th April.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

In Algiers Azeez Solanke was quite a revelation; notably en route to the semi-final stage, in the second round he recovered from a three games to nil deficit to beat Egypt’s Karim Elhakem, the top seed (8-11, 8-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8), before in the penultimate round being beaten by Abdelrahman Rahmou, also from Egypt (11-7, 11-5, 11-3, 11-7).

Success for Abdelrahman Rahmou but in the final when facing colleague, Youssef Abdel-Aziz it was defeat (11-7, 11-5, 11-7, 11-7).

Now one year later, Youssef Abdel-Aziz, 17 years old, starts as the favourite for the title but Azeez Solanke is more than ready for the challenge; recent training sessions, he has attended, under the leadership of Segun Toriola and Olufunke Oshonaike have added to his confidence.

Azeez Solanke spoke to Olalekan Okusan, the ITTF-Africa Press Officer

I think attending more competitions in 2016 has helped my confidence because I have seen top players compete at big stage, while I have also discovered my mistakes as well. So in Tunisia, I am going there to make a name for myself and my country because it is a rare privilege to be considered to represent Nigeria; there are enormous talents in the country.

In the past year, I have been privileged to be trained by two of Africa’s great players, Segun Toriola and Olufunke Oshonaike. I noticed that their kind of training was unique because they trained us with the modern style and this has impacted on me and it has helped me to win a state championship in Nigeria. There is no doubt that the coaching under these two legends has really helped us a lot in Nigeria and we are looking forward to more of this in future.

I have played against some of the Egyptian junior players; I discovered that it is only German based Youssef Abdel-Aziz who has beaten me several times. However, after watching him at the last World Junior Championships in South Africa; I discovered that what gave him an edge over me is exposure. I am particularly prepared to wrestle the title from him. All other players in the Egyptian team have suffered defeats at my hands.

I am aiming to do better than I did in 2016 when I get to Tunis. I have been monitoring players from Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt and I noticed that they have been playing Junior Opens across the globe, while we are really training well in Lagos.

As usual, I will try my best and hope for the best result in Tunis. I cannot wait to get to Tunisia for the Championships.

General News Azeez Solanke

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