Major titles at stake, but when play concluded on Saturday 23rd September at the ITTF Africa Para Championships in Giza, there was the most revered reward of all for the winners; a place in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
Nigeria provided the biggest upsets; in the men’s singles Isau Ogunkunle and Abiola Adesope emerged surprise winners, in the counterpart women’s singles Ifechunkude Ikpeoyi raised the eyebrows.
Competing in men’s singles class 4, a group organised all-play-all event, in the concluding contest, Isau Ogunkunle overcame Egypt’s Sameh Eid (11-5, 9-11, 11-3, 6-11, 11-6); not only was Sameh Eid the top seed, at the London 2012 Paralympic Games he was a bronze medallist.
Defeat for Sameh Eid but there was compensation; one day later he secured the men’s doubles class 8 title in harness with teammate Mohamed Ragab.
Success against the top seed, it was the same for Ifechunkude Ikpeoyi in women’s singles class 4-5. At the semi-final stage she beat Egypt’s Faiza Mahmoud (11-9, 15-13, 9-11, 11-9) the highest rated player on duty, before securing the title at the final expense of colleague Chinenye Obiora (9-11, 11-8, 11-3, 14-12).
Notably, Chinenye Obiora was a player in form; in the group stage she had beaten Faiza Mahmoud in convincing style (11-2, 11-8, 12-10).
Not the best of days for Faiza Mahmoud but matters did improve; in class 10 she joined forces with Lamiaa Mohamed to secure women’s doubles gold and with Hassan Tolba claimed the mixed doubles top prize.
Somewhat differently to Isau Ogunkunle and Ifechunkude Ikpeoyi; for Abiola Adesope in class 9 there was no meeting with the leading name. Not seeded, in the final he accounted for compatriot Francis Chukwuemeka, the no.2 seed (6-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-8), the penultimate round winner in opposition to Tajudeen Agunbiade, the top seed (11-9, 16-14, 11-9).
A most celebrated competitor, now 48 years of age, at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Tajudeen Agunbiade struck gold.
Otherwise, it was success for the favourites, the top seeds.
Likewise on duty for Nigeria in the men’s singles Bolawa Akingbemisilu prevailed in class 5, as did Kayode Alabi in class 6, Victor Farinloye in class 8 and Alabi Olufemi in class 10.
Successful apart, successful together, on the concluding day of play, Victor Farinloye and Kayondi Alabi combined to win class men’s doubles class 14.
In the women’s singles, Faith Obazuave claimed the top prize in class 10 as anticipated; in a very different situation, Kehinde Lawal emerged the class 9 winner, an event comprising players making their first steps on the international scene, none held a World ranking.
Evidence suggests that Kehinde Lawal is set the climb the global order, in Giza she completed the full house; later in class 20, she partnered Faith Obazuaye to women’s doubles class gold and Abiola Adescope to the mixed doubles title.
Places in Paris for Nigeria, it was the same for Egypt, the most prominent African nations in the sport of table tennis shared the spoils.
Sayed Youssef, competing in class 7, reserved his fifth consecutive ticket, his first appearance being in 2008 in Beijing; similarly, Khaled Ramadan emerged successful in class 1-3.
Notably as play progressed both added to their medal collections; Sayed Youssef matched the efforts of Kehinde Lawal. He won men’s doubles class 18 partnering colleague Abdelrahman Abdelwahab and alongside Hanna Hammad emerged victorious in mixed doubles class 17.
Meanwhile, Khaled Ramadan joined forces with compatriot Fawza El-Shamy, the women’s singles class 3 winner, to claim the mixed doubles class 7 title.
Not to be overshadowed by their male counterparts, Fawzia El-Shamy justified her favourites tag to win class 3, a feat emulated by Hagar El-Sayed in class 6-8.
Expected wins, the one remaining women’s singles ticket for Paris to be decided also went to Egypt. Ola Soliman prevailed in class 1-2, a group organised event in which Fatma Hussein, also from the host nation, was the only World ranked player.
Play concluded in Giza, attention now turns to Pajulahti, the three-day ITTF Finland Para Open 2023, commences on Friday 29th September.