No fewer than 168 players from about 27 countries including Nigeria, are expected to be in action at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open, running from August 8th to 12th, at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos. This was disclosed at a media briefing held in Lagos on Tuesday to herald the championship.
Some of the dignitaries who attended the press conference include the Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC) – Dr. Kweku Tandoh; LSSC Director General Babatunde Bank-Anthony; ITTF Competition Manager Mounir Bessah, and President of the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) Ishaku Tikon.
Others are the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and Chairman of the ITTF Nomination Committee Hon. Wahid Enitan Oshodi; Vice President of the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) Olabanji Oladapo, Representative of the title sponsor – Baba Ijebu – and rising Table Tennis stars Olajide Omotayo and Tosin Oribamise.
While speaking with members of the press on Tuesday, the Tournament Director of the competition, Dr. Tandoh, assured the public of a memorable competition. He said: “I just want to assure everyone of having a great time at the 2018 Lagos Open, going by the great work the LOC, NTTF and ITTF are doing in preparation for this tournament.
“This year, we have recorded the highest number of entries and countries, and by the end of today, we would have at least three quarters of the international players around. This competition is something we would all enjoy being a part of.”
NTTF President Tikon, called on Nigerians to support the event. He said: “I urge Nigerians to come out and support the players, considering the quality of players we are expecting at this championship. We want to appreciate the LOC for always helping us to get it right. We also want to thank our sports-loving governor, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for always supporting this tournament and for showing that he is truly interested in sports development.”
Dr. Bank-Anthony disclosed that about $46,000 will be won in Prize Money at the Nigeria Open, with winners of the men and women’s Singles category carting home $5,000 dollars each. Winners of the Doubles events will win $3,000, while the victors in the men and women’s U-21 category will get $1,000 each for their efforts.
Speaking about his expectations ahead of the tournament, Omotayo, who was part of Nigeria’s Silver-winning men’s team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, said: “My expectations are really high because I have really prepared for this tournament. I feel happy and I think it is a plus for Nigeria to be hosting an international event. If I must say, it is the biggest Challenge Series ITTF has to offer, so I want to tell Nigerians and Lagosians to come out and support us.
“My target is to move to the Top 16 and see how it goes from there. Last year I lost at the Round of 64, but this year I am already in the Main draws, so I have an advantage. My experience at the Commonwealth Games has prepared me for this competition. Also, I have attended a lot of Pro Tours and learnt a lot from top players, so I would love to showcase all that I have learnt outside.
“I am not under any pressure because I am Olajide Omotayo and I am No.204 in the world, meanwhile we have Aruna Quadri who is No.18 in the world; he should be the one under pressure. Nevertheless, we are all here to support one another”.
When asked if a Nigerian is likely to win the competition, since the country is hosting, Oribamise, who won a Bronze medal in the Girls’ Singles and Silver in the Mixed Team event at the 2018 AYG, had this to say:
“Championships are not about who is hosting; they are about rankings. It doesn’t matter that we are hosting; what matters is the ability of the players. I believe that Nigerians just need to train harder so that they can become better than their counterparts from other nations. I have prepared for this tournament because I have attended series of competitions this year. However, I don’t want to make any predictions yet.”