by Ian Marshall, Editor (Interviews by Olalekan Okusan ITTF-Africa Press Officer)
At the final hurdle in both disciplines, a full distance five match verdict was the outcome against Nigeria.
In the men’s team final, after Khalid Assar and Ahmed Ali Saleh had beaten Quadri Aruna and Segun Toriola (11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9), Omar Assar overcame Olajide Omotayo (11-8, 11-3, 11-6) to double the advantage, before returning in the fifth and deciding match of the engagement to stem a Nigerian recovery. He accounted for Segun Toriola (11-8, 11-5, 11-8), the man whose goal is the make an unprecedented eighth Olympic Games appearance.
Success against Segun Toriola came after Ahmed Ali Saleh had lost to Quadri Aruna (11-8, 11-2, 11-8) and Khalid Assar had been beaten by Olajide Omotayo (11-8, 11-3, 7-11, 7-11, 11-2).
“I think this was the most important match for us because we had prepared very well in the last five months. We expected that we will meet Nigeria in the final and we were really surprised with the doubles’ line-up of Nigeria when they paired Quadri Aruna and Segun Toriola, because they have been playing with the pair of Segun Toriola and Olajide Omotayo since the start of the tournament. It is very important for us picking the gold medals and securing our place at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.” Ahmed Ali Saleh
Impressive from Omar Assar it was equally impressive from Dina Meshref in a contest that followed the same pattern as the men.
Farah Abdel-Aziz and Yousra Helmy gave Egypt the perfect start by beating Cecilia Akpan and Offiong Edem (11-8, 11-13, 12-10, 11-5), before Dina Meshref extended the advantage by overcoming Olufunke Oshonaike (11-1, 11-5, 11-2).
It was at that stage the Nigerian recovery began; Offiong Edem accounted for Farah Abdel-Aziz (11-5, 14-12, 11-9), to be followed by Olufunke Oshonaike who overcame Yousra Helmy (8-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-6). A possible dramatic recovery for the history books, it was not to happen; Dina Meshref stemmed the tide, she overcame Olufunke Oshonaike in straight games (11-9, 11-8, 11-4).
“We are so excited winning the gold medal and most especially qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. We really prepared for this match and we knew it was going to be tough even when we were leading 2-0. We had thought we could win the match at 3-0 but we had to fight till the end. The Nigeria team is not a pushover and we prepared very well for this kind of match because we had expected it. I am so happy that we have now secured our place in Tokyo. Dina Meshref
Gold for Egypt, silver for Nigeria, for Tunisia it was differing fortunes. In the men’s team event the combination of Adam Hmam, Kerem Ben Yahia and Thameur Mamia recorded a 3-2 win against Congo Brazzaville’s Christ Bienatiki, Saheed Idowu and Michel Lignandzi to secure third place. Conversely in the women’s team competition, Manel Baklouti, Fadwi Garci and Safa Saidani experienced a 3-1 defeat when facing Algeria’s Hiba Feredj, Katia Kessaci and Lynda Loghraibi.
Two bronze medals were awarded.