by Ian Marshall, Editor
Occupying the men’s singles no.3 seeded position, after accounting for the host nation’s Adam Hmam, the no.7 seed (9-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-9, 11-7), Ibrahima Diaw prevailed in the biggest match of his life; he beat Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, the top seed (11-7, 11-8, 11-8, 6-11, 11-13, 11-7) and quarter-finalist at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Success for Ibrahima Diaw, in effect sealed his Tokyo place; Quadri Aruna, who in his opening contest had beaten Togo’s Kokou Dodji Fanny, the no.6 seed (11-7, 11-4, 11-7, 11-3) was forced to withdraw from proceedings suffering from a hip injury when scheduled in his concluding match to face Adam Hmam.
The outcome was that Adam Hmam, bronze medallist at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, who earlier had beaten Kokou Dodji Fanny (11-7, 11-8, 11-9, 11-5), finished in second position and thus reserved his place in Tokyo.
Quadri Aruna must await his fate. The ITTF World Singles Qualification Tournament takes place in Doha from Thursday 28th to Sunday 31st May, a tournament from which at least two players will qualify for each of the men’s singles and women’s singles events. Also, there is a minimum one place available in each discipline according to the relevant world ranking list.
Meanwhile, in corresponding men’s singles group, the top two names, Nigeria’s Olajide Omotayo, the no.2 seed and Algeria’s Larbi Bouriah, the no.10 seed secured their Olympic Games places as status advised. Tunisia’s Kerem Ben Yahia, the no.27 seed, finished in third place ahead of Ivory Coast’s Kizito Oba Oba.
However, it was close; Larbi Bouriah needed the full seven games to beat Kerem Ben Yahia, only succeeding by the minimal two point margin in the decider (7-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-5, 10-12, 11-5, 11-9); had the result been in the opposite direction, Kerem Ben Yahia, not Larbi Bouriah would have been Tokyo bound.
Mixed fortunes for Nigeria in the men’s singles, in the women’s singles it was success upon success; both Offiong Edem, the top seed and Olufunke Oshonaike, the no.3 seed, remained unbeaten to secure top spots.
Offiong Edem finished ahead of Tunisia’s Fadwa Garci, the no.6 seed, colleague Abir Haj Salah, the no.7 seed, finishing in third place ahead of Ethiopia’s Marta Gulti, the no.11 seed.
Success for Offiong Edem but eyes focused on Olufunke Oshonaike, she beat Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou, the no.2 seed (12-10, 11-4, 4-11, 11-7, 11-6) to secure first position and thus became the first woman so secure a seventh appearance in an Olympic Games.
She is one ahead of Jian Fang Lay. She qualified for Tokyo 2020 as a result of being a member of the successful Australian outfit at the 2019 ITTF Oceania Team Qualification last December, she will be competing in her sixth Olympic Games; of players still active Thailand’s Nanthana Komwong and Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus have hitherto played in five Olympic Games.
Defeat for Sarah Hanffou but it was her only defeat; she ended the day in second position ahead of Nandeshwaree Jalim of Mauritius, the no.7 seed and Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi, the no.4 seed.
Attention now turns to mixed doubles qualification, from which one pair will gain a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; play in Tunis concludes on Saturday 29th February.
- Qualifiers – Men: Ibrahima Diaw (Senegal), Adam Hmam (Tunisia), Olajide Omotayo (Nigeria), Larbi Bouriah (Algeria)
- Qualifiers – Women: Offiong Edem (Nigeria), Fadwa Garci (Tunisia), Olufunke Oshonaike (Nigeria), Sarah Hanffou (Cameroon)