19 May 2024

Madagascar’s Fabio Rakotoarimanana made history at the just concluded African Olympic Qualification Tournament in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, after the 21-year-old became the first Madagascan table tennis star to qualify for the Olympic Games* following his triumph in the first stage of the qualifiers.

Hosted at the magnificent BK Arena in Kigali, 50 players from 14 countries featured at the three-day tournament hosted by the Rwanda Table Tennis Federation (RTTF), and Rakotoarimanana, who is the East African champion, defied all odds to pick one of the three tickets in the men’s singles.

Fabio Rakotoarimanana became the first Madagascan table tennis star to qualify for the Olympic Games.

After working his way from the group to the semifinal stage, Rakotoarimanana was stretched by Tunisian teenager Wassim Essid in the semifinal round as the Madagascan triumphed at 4-3 (13-11, 8-11, 11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 4-11, 11-9) to pick his spot in the first stage of the qualification tournament.

Also, Algeria’s Mehdi Bouloussa had to wait until the second stage of the qualifiers to pick up his maiden Olympic Games tickets to Paris*.

The Algerian was edged out in the first stage by Tunsia’s Essid, but he avenged his defeat in the second stage against the Tunisian youngster, and he finally sealed the ticket after a commanding 4-0 (16-14, 11-4, 11-8, 11-4) win over Saheed Idowu of Congo Brazzaville.

Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou will be making her third appearance at the Olympic Games in Paris after the former African champion beat Nigeria’s Fatimo Bello 4-2 (1-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7) to clinch the ticket* in the first stage of the qualification championship.

Nigerian players dominated the qualification tournament as the trio of Bello, Olajide Omotayo, and Offiong Edem picked their spots* at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

It was Edem that started the ticket sweep for Nigeria after beating Tunisia’s Fadwa Garci 4-2 (11-9, 8-11, 11-13, 11-1, 11-8, 11-6) to qualify for her fifth Olympic Games, having featured at Athens 2004, London 2012, Rio 2026, and Tokyo 2020.

Like Edem, Omotayo dominated the Paris ticket-deciding match against Congo Brazzaville’s Saheed Idowu with a 4-0 (11-6, 11-4, 12-10, 11-7) win to secure a spot at his second Olympic Games after making his debut at Tokyo 2020.

Bello had to wait for the second stage of the qualification tournament to seal her place at her maiden Olympic Games in Paris.

After losing the ticket to Cameroon’s Hanffou in the first stage of the qualification, the former West African champion was unbeaten in the second stage, and she confirmed her flight to Paris with a 4-2 (11-5, 11-7, 11-8, 5-11, 9-11, 11-9) win over Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi.

A delighted Rakotoarimanana described the ticket as a boost to table tennis in Madagascar. “I am so happy because I cannot even express how I feel. I worked hard for this for two years, and qualifying as the first Madagascan table tennis player for the Olympic Games will surely help increase interest in the sport and will popularise it in my country. This will surely not be the last time we will be going to the Olympic Games, and I believe I will train well to be able to compete with the best players in the world in Paris,” Rakotoarimanana said.

For Bouloussa, qualifying for the Olympic Games has been a dream, especially since the game would be held near his home in Paris. “I am eagerly looking forward to qualifying for the Olympic Games because the Games will take place just five minutes from my home in Paris, and I cannot wait to be part of it. I was a bit disappointed when I could not make it through the first stage, but I just had to psyche myself up for the second stage, and I am so excited that I made it all last,” Bouloussa said.

* The participation of athletes in the Olympic Games is contingent upon their respective National Olympic Committees’ selection for representation at Paris 2024, as per their exclusive authority.

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