16 May 2024

The largest indoor arena in East Africa, BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda’s largest city, is set to host players from 15 countries on the continent for the African Olympic Qualification Tournament. This eagerly anticipated event will take place from May 16 to 18, as the deadline for securing tickets to the Paris Olympic Games draws near.

Six players—three men and three women—are expected to earn their spots for Paris. Based on the thrilling action from the recently concluded 2024 ITTF Africa Cup, the upcoming tournament promises to be both explosive and exciting when the battle to join the flight to Paris begins on Thursday, May 16.

Algeria’s Mehdi Bouloussa is one of 26 men vying for a spot in Paris. Photo by: Promesse Kamanda

A total of 26 men and 24 women from Algeria, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tunisia, Uganda, and host Rwanda will compete in what promises to be a spectacular event. This marks the first time Rwanda will host an international tournament of this magnitude.

Leading the pack are Nigeria’s top seeds, Olajide Omotayo and Offiong Edem. Omotayo will face a formidable challenge from rising stars like Tunisia’s Wassim Essid, Cameroon’s Ylane Batix, Madagascar’s Fabio Rakotoarimanana, and the experienced Saheed Idowu from Congo Brazzaville. The 2019 African Games champion is aiming for his second Olympic appearance after debuting at Tokyo 2020. Despite a semifinal loss at the recent ITTF Africa Cup, Omotayo hopes to secure his ticket to Paris by overcoming some of the continent’s finest players when it matters most.

Edem, a bronze medalist at the 2023 African Games, is targeting her fifth Olympic appearance after competing in Athens 2004, London 2012, Rio 2016, and Tokyo 2020. The 37-year-old former African Games champion will rely on her experience as she faces competition from Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou, the 2010 African Champion aiming for her third Olympic appearance. Both Edem and Hanffou will need to fend off challenges from younger talents from Tunisia, Madagascar, and Mauritius when the tournament kicks off in Kigali.

The competition will be played in three stages. The first stage features preliminary groups of three or four players each. The winners and runners-up from these groups will advance to the second stage, which consists of a direct knockout system. The two finalists of the second stage will automatically qualify for Paris, while the losers of the semi-finals in the third stage will play a direct knockout to determine the third qualifier for Paris. Matches in Stage 1 will be best of five games, while Stages 2 and 3 will be best of seven games.

All eyes are on Kigali as the continent’s top players converge for a chance to secure their spots at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Find out more about the tournament here before it unfolds tomorrow.

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