by Simon Daish, Interviews conducted by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Media Officer
Despite missing out on participation at the recent 2017 ITTF African Junior and Cadet Championships Esther Oribamise was in terrific form at the Continental Qualification event and the Nigerian representative deservedly sealed her spot at next year’s Youth Olympic Games.
Victory over Morocco’s Ines Outolla in the last four (11-4, 11-9, 11-7, 11-1) guaranteed a top two finish in the Girls’ Singles for Esther Oribamise, but the Nigerian contestant wasn’t done there with one more match still to be played.
Marwa Alhodaby awaited Esther Oribamise in the final with the Egyptian having secured qualification following her success against Tunisia’s Fadwa Garci in the penultimate round (11-9, 13-11, 11-9, 11-9).
However, despite her best efforts Marwa Alhodaby proved unable to finish her Tunis campaign with a win as Nigeria’s Esther Oribamise squeezed over the finish line with a 4-3 victory (11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 8-11, 7-11, 13-11) to claim top spot in the competition.
“I think I was ready for her but I could not just fathom what happened when I was leading 3-1 in games and 4-1 in points in the fifth game only to lose the game. Even in the seventh game, I was leading 8-2 and she caught up with me at 9-9, but I was calm to finish the match at 13-11. This victory and qualification for the Youth Olympic Games means a lot to me particularly after missing the ITTF African Junior and Cadet Championships. I have proved a point to my compatriots that the Egyptians are beatable and they just need to believe in themselves”, Esther Oribamise.
The two players to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games from the Boys’ Singles competition are Youssef Abdel-Aziz and Nathael Hamdoun after they claimed the top two positions on the final day of the qualifying event.
Tunisia’s Nathael Hamdoun was one of only two non-Egyptian competitors to gain titles at the 2017 ITTF African Junior and Cadet Championships when he lifted the Under 21 Men’s Singles trophy, and the host nation representative has done his country proud once again after he booked his ticket to Buenos Aires for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games with a semi-finals win against Azeez Solanke of Nigeria (11-7, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6).
Yet, the ultimate honour would fall upon an Egyptian contestant as Youssef Abdel-Aziz not only picked up a comfortable result in the semi-finals against Algeria’s Abdelbasset Chaichi (11-4, 11-7, 11-2, 11-3) but also saw off Nathael Hamdoun across six games (11-4, 14-16, 11-4, 11-4, 9-11, 11-2) to leave Tunis with a smile on his face.
“I am happy that I was able to repeat the feat I achieved at the 2016 edition of the ITTF African Junior and Cadet Championships in Tunis this year. But this year is unique because I was able to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games which was very important to me this year. I am so happy that my experience in Tunis marked a new turn of things for me in my career as I look forward to the Youth Olympic Games and I will have to work hard to do well in the competition”, Youssef Abdel-Aziz.
After two days of qualification matches in Tunis the four African players to move through to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games are Esther Oribamise of Nigeria, Marwa Alhodaby of Egypt, Youssef Abdel-Aziz of Egypt and Nathael Hamdoun of Tunisia.