by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
A lawyer, Sarah Hanffou, the winner in 2010 on home soil in Yaoundé is one of the early arrivals in Port Louis.
“I think a semi-final would be a very good result, the rest would be a bonus.” Sarah Hanffou
Currently, Sarah Hanffou, the runner up earlier this year in the first week of March at the 2018 ITTF-Africa Top 16 tournament staged in Nairobi, Kenya, has a full life, combining work, study and sport.
“I feel like I have been saying this for months but I have been very busy with work lately. I haven’t had the chance to practise since Kenya. After my PhD and my work as an officer in the army I decided to make a career change and start working in a law firm. Self-employed work requires a lot of work especially in the first years. Nevertheless, I decided to come a bit earlier to Mauritius, to have the chance to have some training in the hall where the competition will take place; I am as motivated as usual. I am thankful to the Mauritius Table Tennis Association for their welcome and to my President who has supporting me.” Sarah Hanffou
Present some five days before proceedings commence, the question posed is as to whether the preparation will be sufficient to regain her title.
“I have to be honest with myself and recognise that without getting back to training seriously, it is quite impossible. Dina Meshref is obviously better than me, as are many other players, such as Olufunke Oshonaike and Edem Offiong; they are playing very well. My priority now is my professional career. I will try to qualify for the next Olympics Games and then I will see if I still have the time, the motivation and the level to continue playing.” Sarah Hanffou
Somewhat cautious in her assessment but reaching the final in Kenya suggests that she is major contender for a podium finish.
“Yes, actually I had an amazing competition in Kenya. Let’s focus on one match after another and see. One of the difficulties I will face in Mauritius is that unfortunately I will not play in the team event. I will have to manage this and get into the competition from the very first match.” Sarah Hanffou
Formerly a member of the French National Team; nowadays one her major roles is that of organising Ping Sans Frontières, an organisation that focuses on the humanitarian aspects of sport.
“I have to be frank. I left the French national team in 2007, more than 10 years ago. Since then, I have been playing and observing table tennis in Africa, as a player and with Ping Sans Frontières. My assessment might be tough but it is as it is: I do not think that there has been any improvement for the players and for the development of table tennis in the continent. Lots of players are struggling to have training in their countries, not to talk of equipment. There is no massive development plan in the schools or projects to unite and join forces in the different zones. I haven’t heard about any social project to use table tennis as a tool of education and convey values. I am thinking about the next generation and I can understand their frustration. I really hope that table tennis in Africa will become focused on players.” Sarah Hanffou
Most certainly, through Ping Sans Frontières, Sarah Hanffou is willing to support by helping provide equipment for the Indian Ocean nation.
“I want to enjoy myself while playing and go as far as possible. Furthermore, with Ping Sans Frontières and thanks to lots of players who are playing in Europe, we were able to bring more than a 100 kilogrammes of equipment. With Cédric Rouleau, who is a member of our team and one of our ambassadors, we will be happy to distribute the equipment to our partners but also to the national associations who are participating for the first time in the African Championship. We must join forces, help each other and give back what table tennis has given us.” Sarah Hanffou.
A challenge awaits Sarah Hanffou and it is more than one challenge; not only playing but promoting table tennis in a wide sphere.