Rilwan Akanbi of Atinuke Table Tennis Club conquered some of the best players in the country to emerge men’s Singles Champion at the 2021 Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) National Championships, just as G20’s Fatimo Bello continued her dominance in the women’s singles in the country.
Akanbi, whose inconsistency has dropped his national rating, worked his way to the top of the men’s singles after edging out title contenders like Amadi Omeh and Azeez Solanke, before finally ending the unbeaten run of Taiwo Mati in the final to emerge as the new National Champion.
The former Asoju Oba Champion was never considered a title contender, having performed poorly at the 20th National Sports Festival in Edo, as well at the Aso Cup in Abuja, but at the weekend, he put up a good performance to lift the coveted trophy alongside the N250,000 star prize in the men’s singles.
Akanbi had to rally from 2-0 down to beat Ondo’s Mati 4-3 (7-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9) to the admiration of the fans at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
In the women’s singles, Bello who has been champion in the last two tournaments, continued her reign as the best female player in the country with a convincing 4-1 (15-13, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 11-1) win over Bose Odusanya in the women’s singles final.
Ondo and G20 won the highest number of medals in the 12 events competed for at the five-day championships which featured 18 states and 18 clubs comprising 300 players at the tournament.
A delighted Akanbi described his win as a reward of hard work. “I am so delighted to win this title because nobody considered me as a title contender, having lost form in the last three years. But I think I played my best in this competition and my opponent in the final was a familiar foe to me, having beaten him in our last two meetings before today’s final. I hope to continue to raise my game hopefully to get myself into the national team,” Akanbi said.
In continuation of his support to young players, Quadri Aruna also provided kit sponsorship to four cadet players and they are Matthew Kuti of Lagos, Matthew Fabunmi of Kwara, Hope Uduaka of Cross River and Ize Sezuo of Kogi. They are expected to be kitted for one year by the African champion.
The tournament was organized by NTTF in collaboration with the Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC) and support from Baba Ijebu Bet, Prime Atlantic, and a host of others.