The Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC) Sola Aiyepeku has predicted more talents discovery at the ongoing 2021 Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) National Championship taking place at the Molade Okoya-Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
Aiyepeku is particularly excited that table tennis is returning to Lagos after the famous Nigeria Open was cancelled in 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic.
He, however, lauded Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for his continued support to sports development in the state.
“We expect that a lot of talents will come from this tournament and like you heard, there are many cadres of competitions in this championships, so we expect new talents and for us in Lagos, this is what we have been saying about creating a circuit of events in every sport and this is a national tournament and the international one will come later in the year which the Governor has already approved and in between we will be having more domestic tournaments because that is the only way we can up the competition,” he said.
Aiyepeku added: “I need to commend Mr. Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. In this tough time, very few people have to stick their necks on the line to stage an event like this and as soon as we proposed this to the Governor, his only concern was the time in between. Can we organize a fruitful tournament and he supported us all the way and the fact that he backs us gave us a lot of confidence.”
He is also optimistic that the state athletes would put up a good fight against their counterparts from other states. “If you look at the National Sports Festival that was held in Edo State, we had our players finishing in third and fourth positions and others outside the medal range. If they were playing more regularly and getting more competition experience, we think they would have finished better in the gold medal. So this tournament will help and also put money in their pockets because this is a big tournament with prize money and that way, we think Lagos State, will gain more even in other sports.”
He also commended NTTF for their commitment to raising the bar in staging a befitting tournament that has become an example to others.
All eyes on Ondo, Oyo in team event
32 men and 16 women teams started their campaign for the podium at the 2021 NTTF National Championships on Tuesday, May 18, and today May 19, the winners will emerge as the final holds at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
All eyes were on the Oyo and Ondo teams who were champions at the 20th National Sports Festival with Taiwo Mati spearheading the Ondo boys while experienced Halimat Hussein is leading the Oyo ladies.
Also, cadet players were in action on the opening day of the championship with 16 battling for places in the last 16 (knockout) stage of the singles event with Mattew Kuti being the star attraction.
A confident Mati believes his mission in Lagos was to lead Ondo to the podium as well as claim the men’s singles title.
“I have positive feelings about this tournament because I have been training and working hard. I am sure that I will perform very well and that is my target and at least to be among the top four because this will be a very tough competition. At the National Sports Festival, I lost in the first round and I was very disappointed but I tried not to let that weighed me down and I quickly made some amendment in my game with my coach and that showed at the just concluded Aso Championship in Abuja despite the fact that I lost in the final,” the captain of the junior national team said.