Tokyo 2020 bound Paralympians and Sydney 2000 gold medalists- Tajudeen Agunbiade and Olufemi Alabi were the star players for Team Nigeria in the final of the men’s class 9 & 10 at the maiden Valuejet Para Table Tennis Open which ended at the weekend in Lagos.
The three-day tournament attracted players from host – Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire with 44 titles at stake at the N10.8m prize money tournament.
In the final of the men’s final, it was Agunbiade partnership with Olufemi Alabi that ensured that Nigeria claimed most of the titles at the expense of Algeria and South Africa, with Theo Cogil of South Africa and Karim Bounedouha of Algeria.
But it was Agunbiade and Alabi’s excellent display that paved way for Nigeria to win the encounter at 2-0.
The tie described as the most colourful match of the competition witnessed beautiful strokes and shots from the players with Agunbiade accuracy and conciseness on table giving Nigeria at edge.
The doubles tie ended 7-11, 11-1, 11-9, 11-7 in favour of the duo of Agunbiade and Alabi.
In the singles tie involving Agunbiade and Bounedouha, the display by the players received applause from the fans but it was the Nigerian that laughed last with 11-8, 16-18, 11-6, 5-11, 11-9 (3-2) to give Nigeria a 2-0 win.
In the singles class 9 and 10, Agunbiade and Alabi claimed the titles to add to their medals at the tournament.
An excited Agunbiade described the victory as energy-sapping. “It was very tough match but me and my teammates are very happy to win the team event. I just want to use this opportunity to thank the sponsor, Valuejet for giving us this platform and urge other corporate organizations to support Para Table Tennis and expose us to more international tournaments to enable us to get to meet new players,” the 2000 Sydney Paralympic gold medalist said.
For the chairman of Valuejet, Kunle Soname, the tournament has come to stay. “The table tennis tournament will be bigger than this next year. You can see a lot players around and this has been a huge success for the fact that this is the first time an event like this is holding in Nigeria and I got a whisper from the President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) that the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has written to make this an annual event in their calendar. For me, nothing can be more exciting than this,” Soname added.
The tournament was put together by Sunday Odebode Foundation in collaboration with NTTF while it was bankrolled by Valuejet Airline.