Egyptians Omar Assar and Hana Goda are the 2023 ITTF-Africa Cup men’s and women’s singles champions following scintillating displays at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani indoor gymnasium.
Assar defeated Nigerian legend Quadri Aruna 4-1 in the best of seven men’s singles final despite the pain caused by an inflamed back.
After the historic match in Nairobi, Assar commented: “This will perhaps go down as the hardest ever ITTF Africa event that I have ever played. I was very close to quitting when I arrived in Nairobi with a back injury, but thanks to the Kenyan medical team for their efforts, as this wouldn’t have been possible. I feel for Aruna, he is a great player.”
In winning the Nairobi edition of the continental Cup, Assar chucked up his 10th career ITTF Africa title having won the 2018 edition in Nairobi.
Aruna on his part said: “I should have been more patient with the game. I think I did my best but it was one of those days. Things were not really working for me. Table tennis is a game of chances and you have to charge from the word go,”
Earlier on, Hana staged a stunning comeback to defend the women’s singles title with a convincing 4-3 victory over Olympian and multiple winner Dina Meshref.
Accompanied by her mum and cheered on by partisan Kenyan fans, Hana dismissed compatriot Dina in a pulsating final which treated Kasarani crowd to some exhilarating displays.
In the process, the Germany-based Egyptian star entered her name in the annals of table tennis history as the youngest ever player to defend a senior Africa continental title at the age of 15.
“I’m lost for words, I mean I just don’t know how to describe my win. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” an emotional Hana quipped of her fairy tale feat.
Hana’s win over Meshref was a repeat of last year’s final in Lagos where she beat her senior to become the youngest continental winner ever at the age of 14.
But the teenage star, on her very first tour to Kenya, confirmed her status as one of the junior table tennis greats with back-to-back women’s singles titles.
Hana is ranked fourth in the world among juniors and 39th overall in the ITTF ranking.
And having already taken some impressive scalps, Hana’s growing list of accolades in Africa include beating some of the most decorated players among them multiple Nigerian Olympian Funke Oshonaike.
In the women’s semis Dina vanquished compatriot Marwa Alhodaby 4 -1 whilst Sarah Hanffou of Cameroon lost 1-4 to Hana.
But Nairobi’s showpiece was quite an emotional one for Sarah as the loss to Hana marked her last year of play.
The France-based Cameroonian international announced her retirement at the ITTF presser in Nairobi.
She is hanging up her bats to focus on her Ping Sans Frontieres project which develops table tennis as an educational and educative tool worldwide.