Team Nigeria put up impressive show at the third edition of the Lagos International Badminton Classics which ended on Saturday at the Molade Okoya Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere.
Although the traditional stronghold of badminton, Sri Lanka and India stole the show emerging as champions in most of the five categories, the emerging Nigerian players proved their mettle.
The pair of Zainab Momoh and Ramatu Yakubu fought gallantly to the final of the Women’s Doubles but lost to the Sri Lankan duo of Thilini Pramodika Hendahewa and Ishadika Kavidi in the final match. It was two straight win of 21-8, 21-5 for the Sri Lankans.
But the score lines speak little about the efforts of Zainab Momoh and Ramatu Yakubu who had faced very stiff oppositions on their way to the final. They beat the Ugandan duo of Bridget Shamim Bangi and Aisha Nakiyemba. The Nigerian pair had to come from behind to eventually win 14-21, 21-18 and 21-15.
Before then, they had beaten another Nigerian team of Asisat Ogunkambi and Felicia Omotola in the quarter-finals.
Nigeria’s Badminton Federation President, Francis Orbih, is undeterred that the Nigerians did not emerge winners.
He remarked that the Nigerian team is still work in progress as his administration will embark on talent hunting, talent development and popularising badminton to lift it from the realm of lesser-known sport.
He said that with assistance of the corporate organizations in Nigeria as well as those of governments and individuals, Nigeria will soon become a force to reckon with in international badminton circuits.
He particularly praised the efforts of Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode who has lifted the Lagos International Classics since its inception.
He hopes to establish other competitions across the country even though the Lagos tournament will still remain the only international classics and the highest in Africa.
The dynamic way the tournament has become has seen that no individual has absolute dominance.
Top seed and winner of the first edition, Misha Zilberman of Israel could not make it to the final match of the men’s singles as he was eliminated in the semi-finals by the eventual winner and fourth seed, Rahul Yadav Chittaboina of India who went ahead to beat compatriot, Karan Rajan Rajarajan 21-15, 21-13 in an entertaining final match.
The elimination of top seed and inaugural winner, Misha Zilberman was not the only upset of the Lagos International classics. Thilini Pramodika Hendahewa of Sri Lanka who was unseeded in the tournament emerged champion in the women’s category after a close victory over India’s Mugdha Agrey who was seeded fourth heading into the international challenge.