The number of Nigerian athletes that will compete at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan in 2021 continues to swell after Esau Ogunkunle and Faith Obiora were confirmed among the list of players that qualified for the Games based on their International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) world rankings.
From the 2019 African Championships held in Egypt which served as the continental qualifiers, five Nigerians picked their tickets after emerging champions in their various categories.
The five include; Tajudeen Agunbiade (M9), Olufemi Alabi (M10), Ahmed Koleosho (M3), Victor Farinloye (M8) and Faith Obazuaye (10).
In a statement signed by ITTF Para Table Tennis Events and Classification Manager, Pablo Perez, Nigeria was listed among the 40 countries expected to compete in the table tennis event of the Paralympic Games.
Ogunkunle and Obiora finished second in Egypt to miss out from the automatic qualification but their world ranking secured the slots for them after considerations by ITTF.
Ogunkunle who is the national champion will be making his debut at the Paralympic Games in the men’s class four while Obiora who is making her second appearance at the Paralympic Games will be competing in the women’s class five.
Second Vice President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Anderson Bankole expressed his joy over the qualification of the athletes.
“I am so happy that Nigeria will present seven athletes at the games being the highest contingent to be presented by Nigeria in the table tennis event of the Paralympic Games.
“I am sure and confident that we can win medals at the games because we have quality players that can compete with the rest of the world. I am also hoping that after the Covid-19, we can expose these players to top class tournaments across the world,” Bankole who is the chairman of the Para Division of NTTF added.
Bankole who is a serving Commissioner of Police, is a member of the ITTF Para Committee. He congratulated the players for their efforts in putting Nigeria on the world map with their qualification, adding that Nigeria is one of the nations presenting a large number of players for the games ahead of Egypt which has six qualified players.
Coach Sunday Odebode also attributed the qualifications of the players to their dedication and commitment to the sport while calling on more support for para table tennis.
“I am confident that with more support for para table tennis, Nigeria has the capacity to sweep medals in the event because we have the quality players that can rival any team in the world. I hope and believe we can return home with medals from Tokyo,” said Odebode who led the team to Egypt in 2019.