by Simon Daish
Africa’s only medal success to date on the World Championships stage came at the 1939 tournament in Cairo, however, the continent has never reached the podium in the Men’s Singles draw.
80 years on from that excellent display in Cairo the African continent dreams of ending its long wait to return to the podium at the upcoming Liebherr 2019 World Championships and surely its best hopes lie with Omar Assar and Quadri Aruna.
Bursting onto the scene in 2011, winning two gold medals at the All-Africa Games Omar Assar has since gone on to become a leading figure for his country.
A winner of seven African Championships gold medals in total and last March the Egyptian star beat Quadri Aruna to the 2018 ITTF-African Cup in Kenya.
Famously reaching the quarter-finals of the 2014 Men’s World Cup Quardi Aruna was the recipient of the Star Player award later that year, but surely his most outstanding achievement to date came at Rio 2016 where he became the first African table tennis player to reach the last eight at the Olympic Games.
Last year Quadri Aruna collected the Men’s Singles silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, won gold at the 2018 ITTF-African Championships and made history for Nigeria by becoming the first player from the country to claim an ITTF Challenge Series Men’s Singles trophy.
Both players have impressive records at both continental and international level but how have they fared at past editions of the World Championships?
Making his World Championships debut in 2013, Omar Assar achieved a notable round three finish in Paris and put his name in the top 32 again two years later in Suzhou. Last time out in 2017 Assar pulled off a mighty comeback win in his opening encounter with Marco Rech Daldosso but fell to no.7 seed Wong Chun Ting one round later.
Quadri Aruna was present at the World Championships staged in 2015 and 2017: in Suzhou the Nigerian was eliminated by India’s Soumyajit Ghosh at the first hurdle but he did fare slightly better in Düsseldorf, beating Chile’s Gustavo Gomez before exiting to Denmark’s Jonathan Groth in round two.
Taking home a medal of any colour will be a very tough ask in Budapest especially with the likes of China, Japan and Germany fielding a plethora of world class athletes. Progressing to the Round of 16 seems to be a reachable target for the African duo but we’ll have to wait until next month to find out.
Watch Omar Assar and Quadri Aruna take on the world’s elite players by purchasing your tickets for the Liebherr 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships: