When its maiden attempt at qualifying for table tennis team event of the Olympic Games failed to materialise in Portugal, Team Nigeria has shifted attention to the African Olympic Qualifying Tournament holding next month in Tunis, Tunisia.
Being the final qualifying window for African teams and players to compete at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the 54 members of the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) excluding Egypt will converge on Tunis on February 27 to 29 for the qualifying tournament in singles and mixed doubles events.
After losing the sole continental slot to Egypt at the 2019 African Games, Nigeria for the first time competed at the World Team Qualifying Tournament in Gondomar, Portugal, but the team also narrowly lost to Poland in the second round of the tournament to miss out, leaving Egypt as the only African team competing in the team event of Tokyo 2020.
According to the prospectus of the tournament in Tunisia, two players each in men and women from each African federation apart from Egypt, are expected to compete in the singles while one pair from each country including Egypt will compete for the continent’s sole slot in mixed doubles event.
The top four (semifinalists) players in singles (men and women) will qualify for Tokyo 2020, while the winner in the mixed doubles event will pick the African sole slot for Tokyo 2020. Each country cannot qualify more than two players in singles (men and women).
According to the President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Ishaku Tikon, the performance of the players in Portugal should be commended being the first time Nigeria would be making attempt at qualifying from the world event.
He however, expressed confidence that Nigeria still has the chance to pick the tickets in singles and mixed doubles event in Tunisia.
Tikon said: “I must commend the players for their commitment particularly with their display against the Polish team in Portugal. Having come back from 2-0 down to level up the match at 2-2 showed that we are not push over and we gave a good account of ourselves against the world best. But that is not the end of the journey for us as we have another opportunity at the African qualifiers in Tunisia next month. I am personally confident that we can make it to Tokyo from there.
“I am also using this opportunity to commend the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports particularly the Minister, Sunday Dare for his support since assumption of office and I want to assure him that we will not disappoint in Tunisia as we are hoping for more of their support in our qualification journey to Tokyo 2020,” the NTTF boss said.
Also in an effort to give teams across the globe the chance to be part of the table tennis event in Tokyo, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) will be organising the final qualifying championship tagged World Singles Qualification Tournament holding in Doha, Qatar on May 28 to 31.