Nigeria’s girls’ singles defending champion, Taiwo Akanbi, started her title defense at the third Efunkoya National Cadet Table Tennis Championships taking place at the Indoor Hall of the National Stadium in Lagos.
The tournament which is being bankrolled by former players and friends of table tennis is organized to honour the former President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, Efunkoya whose tenure changed the fortunes of the sport in the country.
Players from 10 states of the federation and nine clubs are currently slugging it out in the singles, and doubles events as 64 boys and 37 girls are aiming to mount the podium come Saturday, October 1 at the grand finale of the three-day championships.
According to the referee of the tournament, John Peters, the turnout of the players showed the growth of the tournament while the standard continues to improve annually.
“We are excited with the turnout of players for this year’s tournament and one unique thing about this year’s tournament is that most of the top players who have dominated the tournament in the last two editions are not competing this year because they are above the age-limit while some of the players that have represented the country in international tournaments have been exempted from the competition,” he said.
Specifically, Peters singled out Matthew Kuti, a two-time winner of the boys’ singles who dazzled at the 2022 African Youth Championships in Tunis as one of the products of the competition in the last two editions.
Apart from shining in Tunis, Kuti will be part of Team Nigeria at the 2022 ITTF World Youth Championships taking place later in the year in Tunisia.
An excited 13-year-old Rokibat Adeyemi of Okla Club of Maryland could not hide her joy competing against some of the best cadet players in the country.
The junior class student of Immaculate Comprehensive Junior School described the tournament as a veritable platform for her to hone her skills. “I am so excited about competing against some of the best players in the country. In the last edition which was my first outing, I did not make it beyond the group stage and this year, I am hoping to exceed that stage. I love table tennis and I will continue to work harder to improve my skills.
“And I am very grateful to our sponsor, Ganiyu Okanlawon who has been helping us to sharpen our skills at the club and I look forward to more tournaments like this,” she added.
The tournament ends on Saturday, October 1, with a new champion expected to emerge in the boys’ singles in the absence of two-time champion Kuti of Lagos State.