by Ian Marshall, Editor
A long preparation period of over five years; equally for table tennis it has been a long journey; the quest for a place in the Argentine capital city commenced almost 18 months ago on Saturday 16th April in the Palais des Sports El-Mensah in Tunis; the event, the African Qualification Tournament.
Held over a two day period, Egypt’s Youssef Abdel-Aziz followed by Tunisia’s Nathael Hamdou emerged the Men’s Singles qualifiers; Nigeria’s Esther Oribamese and Marwa Alhodaby, like Youssef Abdel-Aziz from Egypt, secured the counterpart Women’s Singles places.
In the Mixed International Team event in Buenos Aires, Youssef Abdel-Aziz partners Marwa Alhodaby, Nathael Hamdoun joins forces with Hong Kong’s Lee La Yee; for Esther Oribamese, the partner is compatriot Azeez Solanke, he gained one of the two National Olympic Committee Universality places.
Notably the format for play is very much the same as in 2010 when the first Youth Olympic Games was staged in Singapore; the first four days of play being allocated to the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events, the competition being organised in two stages, group matches followed by knock-out. Likewise, the concluding four days follow the same principle for the Mixed International Team event.
The same format as at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, the continent of Africa will no doubt be more than satisfied with the same outcome as eight years ago.
In 2010 Nigeria’s Ojo Onaolapo, the no.11 seed, caused quite a stir; he reached the quarter-finals of the Men’s Singles event losing to the champion elect, Japan’s Koki Niwa.
However, in the Mixed International Team event there was an even bigger stir. Several days before the tournament was due to start, China’s Yin Hang had withdrawn from proceedings; colleague Gu Yuting, who had won Women’s Singles gold, was thus without a partner. Quickly, with the agreement of all officials, an answer was found, the replacement was Tunisia’s Adem Hmam, a young man who we had first seen as a 10 year old at the 2005 ITTF World Cadet Challenge in the Dominican Republic. Together, they won the bronze medal.
Such is the example set for this year’s African representatives and eyes focus on Youssef Abdel-Aziz, can he emulate the feats of Ojo Onaolapo and Adem Hmam? Presently he is listed at no.5 on the Under 18 Boys’ World Rankings; he is a contender for honours.