by Ian Marshall, Editor (Interview by Olalekan Okusan ITTF-Africa Press Officer)
The no.6 seed and the winner the previous day in opposition to Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh, the no.2 seed (11-7, 10-12, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6), Olajide Omotayo maintained his outstanding form on the concluding day of action.
He ended the hopes of compatriots; he beat four times champion, Segun Toriola, the no.4 seed (13-11, 11-9, 16-11, 8-11, 12-14, 12-10), before securing the title at the final expense of Quadri Aruna, the top seed (13-11, 11-9, 16-14, 8-11, 12-14, 12-10).
An outstanding performance and make no mistake Quadri Aruna was in form. In the counterpart semi-final, he had beaten Egypt’s Omar Assar (11-7, 14-12, 5-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6) and thus turned the tables. Four years ago in Congo Brazzaville he had lost to Omar Assar in the final.
According to status
Against the odds for Olajide Omotayo, for Dina Meshref it was according to status but the concluding day in the women’s singles event was not without a surprise. Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou, the no.6 seed, emerged the unexpected finalist.
Following success at the quarter-final stage against Egypt’s Yousra Helmy, the no.3 seed (12-10, 15-13, 12-10, 10-12, 11-13, 5-11, 11-5), she maintained her form to beat Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, the no.2 seed (11-8, 11-9, 11-4, 5-11, 3-11, 13-11), before Dina Meshref proved a step too far. A straight games defeat was the order of the day against the champion elect (11-7, 11-4, 11-2, 11-7), a player who had eyes focused on gold and was to be derailed.
Earlier at the semi-final stage she had accounted for colleague Farah Abdel-Aziz, the no.5 seed (11-5, 11-7, 11-3, 11-9) and also a player in form. The previous day at the quarter-final stage she had ousted Nigeria’s Olufunke Oshonaike, the no.4 seed (11-4, 11-6, 5-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8).
Gold for Dina Meshref and a record, she becomes the first Egyptian woman to win the women’s singles title in the table tennis events at consecutive African Games.
“I am so happy becoming the first female Egyptian to win the women singles title back-to-back. I must admit that it was not easy at all because the four years difference between the two titles was very long for me to be able to keep up with my performance. I am so excited that I was able to retain the title again.” Dina Meshref
Furthermore, it was a somewhat different scenario from four years ago when Li Yuheng and Han Xing, both players who had learned their skills in China, represented Congo Brazzaville.
“It was a bit easy for me winning the title this year because in 2015, I had to play against some Chinese players from Congo Brazzaville and I also confronted Ofiong Edem of Nigeria in the quarter-final stage. There was also a lot of pressure on me then because it was qualification for the Olympic Games; so this year, I played with less pressure and I had a good draw to the final.” Dina Meshref
Notably Dina Meshref secured the title with just the loss of one game; that being in the very first one! In the opening round she needed five games to beat Tunisia’s Safa Saidani (7-11, 11-4, 11-2, 11-4, 11-6); from that moment forward, there was no such charity.