Nigeria’s top para table tennis players including Paralympians Tajudeen Agunbiade and Olufemi Alabi as well as 2022 Commonwealth medalists, Isau Ogunkunle and Faith Obazuaye are among the stars aiming for a podium finish at the Valuejet Lagos Para Table Tennis Open ongoing at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
According to the organisers, the huge turnout of players was based on the fact that the tournament has been designated as a selection platform for athletes that will represent Nigeria at the qualifiers for Paris 2024 Paralympic Games in France.
All eyes will be on the quartet of Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi, Nasiru Sule, Ogunkunle, Faith Obiora and Obazuaye, who were medalists at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and National Sports Festival respectively.
A determined Sule, who is the oldest para table tennis player said he is not ready to quit the stage as he is aiming to make another appearance at the Paralympic Games.
“My first Paralympic Games was in Atlanta 1996 in the United States and since then I have been winning medals for Nigeria at major international tournaments,” he said.
“My body can still carry me and I still believe I still have something to offer. I think I am the only one that can stop myself from going to Paris if I don’t train very well and the Valuejet Lagos Open would afford me the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best players in Africa because Nigeria remains the best in para table tennis in the continent.”
For Ikpeoyi, who won silver at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, playing against some of Nigeria’s finest players would surely prepare her for any opponent in a major competition.
“I must commend the organisers of the Valuejet tournament for keeping faith with the para players and I believe this is another way to test our strength against strong opponents. I look forward to winning again this year,” she boasted.
Meanwhile, the team event of the tournament would be concluded on Friday, December 16 while the finals of some selected singles events will climax the tournament on Saturday, December 17.