Ahead of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, Nigeria’s Isau Ogunkunle and Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi garnered vital points after making it to the podium at the ITTF Saudi Arabia Para Open 2023 in Riyadh.
The Commonwealth Games medalists competed against some of the best players in the world from Egypt, India, Slovakia, Turkey, Japan, and a host of others.
The Nigerian team were supported on the trip by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, and they competed in the singles and doubles event.
Ogunkunle competed in the men’s Singles Class 4 and he worked his way into the final after edging out Slovakia’s Boris Travnicek on his way to the final where he faced African champion Sameh Eid of Egypt.
And it was a closed contest between Ogunkunle and Eid but it was the experienced Egyptian that triumphed at 3-1 (11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 15-13) to claim the gold medal ahead of the Nigerian champion.
In the men’s class eight doubles, Ogunkunle partnered Eid after beating Turkey’s Ramazan Sincar and Yusuf Zaladin 3-0 (11-1, 11-9, 11-2).
Ogunkunle added his third medal in the mixed doubles class 10 as he paired his compatriot Ikpeoyi to settle for silver behind Egypt’s duo of Hassan Tolba and Faiza Mahmoud.
In the women’s singles class five, Ikpeoyi had to settle for bronze after losing the final match to Egypt’s Faiza Mahmoud 3-1 (11-7, 9-11, 9-11, 7-11).
An elated Ogunkunle described the performance in Riyadh as a dress rehearsal of what to expect at the African Para Championships taking place next month in Egypt. He added that the continental championships which also serves as qualifiers for Paris 2024 Paralympic Games in France would provide him the opportunity to avenge the defeat he suffered against the Egyptian in Saudi Arabia.
Commenting on the team’s performance, President of the Paralympics Committee of Nigeria (PCN) Sunday Odebode lauded the players for putting the country on the medal table while acknowledging the support of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development that made it possible for the team to be part of the competition. He however, pleaded for more support for the team to compete at the qualifiers in Egypt next month.
At the ITTF Saudi Arabia Para Open, Egypt’s Abdelrahman Abdelwahab and Sayed Youssef, alongside Romania’s Ioana-Monica Tepelea emerged the most successful players on duty in Riyadh.