Jide Omotayo and Cecilia Akpan while competing in the Mixed Doubles at the 2019 African Games in Morocco.

As its maiden attempt at qualifying for the Table Tennis team event of the Olympic Games failed to materialise in Portugal, Team Nigeria have shifted attention to the African Olympic Qualifying Tournament holding next month in Tunis, Tunisia.

Being the final qualifying window for African teams and players to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the 54 members of the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) excluding Egypt will converge in Tunis from February 27 to 29 for the qualifying tournament in the singles and mixed doubles events.

After losing the sole continental slot to Egypt at the 2019 African Games, Nigeria for the first time competed at the World Team Qualifying Tournament in Gondomar, Portugal, but the team narrowly lost to Poland in the second round of the tournament, leaving Egypt as the only African team competing in the team event of Tokyo 2020.

According to the prospectus of the tournament in Tunisia, two players each in the men and women’s categories respectively from each African Association apart from Egypt, are expected to compete in the singles while one pair from each country including Egypt will compete for the continent’s sole slot in the mixed doubles event.

The top four (semifinalists) players in the singles event (men and women) will qualify for Tokyo 2020 while the winner in the mixed doubles event will pick the African sole slot for Tokyo 2020. Each country cannot qualify more than two players in the singles (men and women).

For the President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Ishaku Tikon, the performance of the players in Portugal should be commended, being the first time Nigeria would be making attempt at qualifying from the world event. He however expressed confidence that Nigeria still has the chance to pick the tickets in singles and mixed doubles event in Tunisia.

Also in an effort to give teams across the globe the chance to be part of the Table Tennis event in Tokyo, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) will be organising the final qualifying championship tagged World Singles Qualification Tournament holding in Doha, Qatar, from May 28 to 31.

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Yemi Olus is a Senior Sports Writer and Editor at Making of Champions. She has a bias for Athletics and was previously a Sports Reporter at the National Mirror, where she hosted a weekly column ‘On the Track with Yemi Olus’ for over two years. A self-acclaimed ‘athletics junkie’, she has covered national and international events live, such as the African Athletics Championships, African Games and IAAF World Championships. She has also freelanced for the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and currently hosts a weekly Track and Field column in the Vanguard Newspaper.

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