by Ian Marshall, Editor (Interviews: Olalekan Okusan)
In fact, in the individual events only one champion does not return; South Africa’s Petrus du Plooy, the men’s singles class 6 winner in Agadir, does not compete in Alexandria.
However, the names of Nigeria’s Ahmed Owolabi Koleosho (class 3), alongside Egypt’s Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh (class 4), Hassan Tolba (class 5) and Moahmed Ahmed Sayed (class 7) in addition to Abdelraman Abdelwahab (class 10) all appear on the entry list.
Similarly in the women’s singles events, Nigeria’s Chine Obiora (class 5) and Egypt’s Faiza Mahmoud (class 5) both gold medallists in Agadir compete as does the host nation’s Hanna Hammad (class 6). A silver medallist four years ago, at the recent 2019 Para Egypt Open she struck gold, she is a player in form.
Notably, also present in the men’s singles event is South Africa’s Theo Cogill (class 10); just over one year ago he finished in fourth place in class 6-10 at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, prior to securing bronze at the more recent 2019 Para Egypt Open.
Alongside Nigeria’s Olufemi Ajayi, he spoke to Olalekan Okusan, the ITTF-Africa Press Officer; both in a positive mood as they look ahead to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“I am aiming to secure my place here but I don’t like boasting before any tournament. I am quite optimistic that I will make it here in Egypt.” Theo Cogill
“I don’t see anybody stopping me because I have not been stopped in previous tournaments. I know the South African player is my arch rival but I am ready for any opponent to pick up the maximum points in the tournament.” Olufemi Ajayi
However, if experience is the factor, no player can match Nigeria’s 52 year old Nasiru Sule (class 5); he competed in 1992 in Barcelona, four years later in Atlanta, in 2000 in Sydney and 2008 in Beijing. Likewise, he spoke to Olalekan Okusan.
“All my life has revolved round table tennis and the sport has added value to my life; at the moment I am the only table tennis star in Nigeria to have received the Nigeria’s national honour – Member of the Order of Niger. It was following my performance in 1996 in Atlanta. The sport has opened doors for me in life and it has created a job for me. So quitting the sport now is not in my plan and I am hoping and believing that I will make it to Tokyo 2020 in Japan. Competing in the Paralympics Games is the dream of every player and not taking part in the last two editions has been challenging particularly knowing full well that I have the ability to make it there. I have to put that behind me and focus on returning to the big stage in Tokyo.” Nasiru Sule
Accommodated at the Plaza Grand Hotel, a total of 85 players, 65 men and 20 women representing eight national associations – Algeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia – appear on the entry list.
Everything in place, Khalid El-Salhy, the President of the African Table Tennis Federation is well aware of the tournament’s significance.
“It is clear that some players can get their Tokyo 2020 qualification licence from his tournament; those players who will not have the required number of ranking points but they are winners here, should compete in para events in the next six months.” Khaled El-Salhy
Most certainly, it is an impressive entry, one that underlines the progress of para table tennis and table tennis in the continent of Africa; compared with Agadir in 2015, the numbers have grown significantly. Four years ago 45 players registered, a total of 35 men and 10 women representing six national associations – Egypt, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa.
Intense competition awaits but whatever the outcome it is progress, major progress in the continent of Africa.
2019 Para African Championships: Latest Results and Draws