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Aruna and Egypt’s Meshref reclaim ITTF Africa Cup title

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Quadri Aruna and Dina Meshref reclaimed the ITTF Africa Cup title after winning the 2024 edition at BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.

Aruna, the top seed still fresh from his exploits at the WTT Saudi Smash, was again unstoppable with a commanding win in the final against Egypt’s Mohamed El-Beiali.

The one-sided final saw Aruna effortlessly take down the Egyptian with a 4-0 (11-5, 11-6, 12-10, 11-3) win to emerge as the new Africa Cup champion after losing the title to Egypt’s Omar Assar in 2018.

“There was never an easy win in any competition, and I am happy that I gave my best and my best resulted in the victory.

“It has always been in me not to give up, even when I am down, and I am happy that all my hardwork paid off with the victory.

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“I must commend Rwanda for providing good facilities and their hospitality for us, the players, and I look forward to returning again to this beautiful country,” World No. 19 said.

Like Aruna, Meshref was at her best after coming back from 2-0 down to defeat her compatriot, Mariam Alhodaby, 4-3 to become the new Africa Cup champion after losing the last two editions in the final.

A relieved Meshref described the victory as crucial, particularly coming back from injury.

“I am happy that I was able to come back, especially coming back from an injury I sustained before the tournament.

“I must thank my family and my mother, who sacrificed to be with me in Rwanda. It was a tough win for me here in this beautiful country of Rwanda, and I will cherish this moment for a very long time to come,” she said.

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The tournament has over 50 players from 14 countries taking part as players brace up for the African Olympic Qualification Tournament, which begins on May 16 and ends on May 18.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Rwanda raises bar in table tennis as Africa plays in Kigali

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As the 2024 ITTF Africa Cup and Africa Olympic Qualification Tournament get under way in Kigali, Rwanda, with an international press conference on Saturday, May 11, the host country has surpassed expectations, especially in terms of the world-class facilities the government and people of Rwanda have put in place at the 10,000-capacity BK Arena for both events. 

 Consequently, it was the elated President of the Rwanda Table Tennis Federation (RTTF), John Birungi, who spoke at the press conference, pitching Rwanda’s readiness to host bigger sporting events like the world championships to emulate Egypt and South Africa.

Birungi, who brimmed with great enthusiasm, said, “I am so happy that it has become a reality that we are hosting two major competitions on the continental calendar. This is the first time we are hosting major African championships in the year of the Olympic Games. We are very ambitious and capable of hosting WTT events to toe the line of Egypt and South Africa, the only two African nations to have hosted the world championships. 

“We are very grateful to the  ITTF and the ATTF for considering us and their firm belief in us that we can stage a major competition of this status. This would not have been possible without the huge support of the Government of Rwanda and other supporters, and we are not taking this for granted. We are confident that we can do bigger events in the near future.”

Thrilled by the state-of-the-art venue, the BK Arena, President of the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), Khaled El-Salhy, lauded the Birungi-led board of the RTTF for matching their words with action with the quality of the venue and other facilities in place for the tournament.

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 “I am so excited that this is a reality based on the promise made when the hosting rights were awarded to Rwanda in Tunis last year. From the look of things, it is clear that Rwanda is capable. They have shown great ambition with what they have put in place. We are very excited that they are hosting a tournament of this magnitude for the first time. They have put everything in place to ensure a hitch-free event,” El-Salhy said.

The 2024 ITTF Africa Cup and Africa Olympic Qualification Tournament will be held from May 12 to 18. 17 countries will compete in the three-day tournament.

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Aruna marches on at Saudi Smash

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Nigeria’s Aruna Loses Gold Medal Contest To Main Rival, Assar Of Egypt -

Just like he did in the first round, Quadri Aruna continued his superb display after taking down Lee Sang Su of South Korea 3-2 in the second round of the men’s singles at the WTT Saudi Smash taking place at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.

The Nigerian, who is ranked 19th in the world, was at his best from the start of the encounter, dominating the first two games to win 11-9, 11-9. But the Korean fought back in the third and fourth games to level up at 9-11, 7-11.

In the deciding encounter, Aruna raced to the lead with a 4-1 win, but the Korean thwarted his lead to 4-4 with both players playing with a lot of caution.

Even when Aruna was hitting the ball hard for the Korean, it was as if his shots were not too much for his opponent, who took the lead and was on the verge of victory at 10-8.

A backhand topspin from Aruna became the undoing of the Korean, who lost two points to allow the Nigerian to level up at 10-10.

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A missed shot from Aruna again handed the Korean 11-10 lead, as only a point was all the Asian star needed to avenge his last meeting loss against Aruna.

Just like he did in the first round against Indian legend Sharath Achanta, Aruna stood his ground and fought like a true champion to match the Korean shot-for-shot, which eventually went his way for the tie to go 10-10.

Two missed shots were what Aruna needed to silence the supporting Asians at the venue of the match, as the Nigerian laughed last with a 13-11 win to become the second player to reach the second round after Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan took down world number five Jingkun Liang 3-2 to cause the first upset of Day 3 of the $2 million prize money tournament.

For the third-round tie (round of 16), Aruna will face another Korean in Daeseong Cho on Wednesday, May 8.

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NTTF picks Aruna, Edem, others for African Cup, Olympics Qualifiers in Kigali

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Assar, Aruna, lead six other Africans to 2024 ITTF World Cups

The Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) has named Quadri Aruna, Offiong Edem, Olajide Omotayo and Fatimo Bello as Nigeria’s flagbearers at the 2024 ITTF African Cup and Olympics Qualification Tournament taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 12 to 18.

According to the prospectus of the tournament, each country is expected to present two men and two women for the African Cup while Egypt as the defending champions in men and women will present three players each. Rwanda will present four men and four women as the host country.

In the list of participants released by the continental table tennis ruling body, African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), Omar Assar of Egypt as the men’s singles defending champion will be joined by her compatriot – Hana Goda who will also be defending her title in the women’s singles.

Aruna as finalists at the 2022 edition held in Lagos, Nigeria, suffered an injury in the final to forfeit the match to Assar after coming back from the brink of defeat to level up.

He led in the seventh game, but a thigh injury forced him to surrender the title to the Egyptian in front of the supporting Lagos fans.

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The Nigerian who had dropped in the ITTF ranking to 19th place is hoping to use the tournament to climb his way back to the top of the world rating will again be facing a Herculean task against the Egyptian trio of Assar, Mohamed El-Beiali and Youssef Abdel-Aziz.

Omotayo who is yet to show why he was crowned the 2019 African Games champion will be looking forward to another showdown against some of the finest African stars in Kigali.

Edem who spearheaded Nigeria’s silver medal at the 13th African Games will be looking forward to a repeat of her Accra’s superlative performance in Kigali.

Bello, a finalist at the 2022 edition must have put her below-par performance in Ghana behind her with the hope of reenacting her 2022 form in Rwanda.

At the Olympics Qualification Tournament, Aruna will be eyeing her fourth Olympic Games appearance when the event kicks off on May 16 at the BK Arena in Kigali as Egypt will not be competing as they had already picked their tickets at the 2023 African Championships in Tunisia.

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