Continental junior table tennis players debuting at the ongoing 11th African Games in Brazzaville on Tuesday expressed divergent views on their first appearance in the Games.
The new entrants include, Rashidat Ogundele from Nigeria and others from Angola, Uganda, Libya and Algeria.
Nigeria’s Ogundele said that attending the Games for the first time had thrown a lot of challenges to her. “I think it is a challenge to me that I must work hard in order to win a medal in my debut.
“Having attended the Commonwealth Games for the first time in 2004, I am believing that my debut at the current African Games will be a memorable one,” Ogundele said.
The 17-year-old Angolan duo of Ruth Tavares and Isabel Albino showed a lot of promises in their matches with their enterprising style of play. Even the hairstyle that the young lads wore, singled them out of the crowd.
The duo won bronze medals in the doubles event at the African Junior Championship held in Mauritius in 2015.
Alvares said she felt great playing among the top players in the continent, because most of the top players were highly experienced.
“Unlike us that have no experience in major competitions, we will continue to give out our best, hoping for the best in Brazzaville.
“We will not be afraid to play against any player in the Games,’’ Alvares said.
Peter Muturi, 18-year-old Kenyan, said attending the Games for the first time rekindled the zeal in me to continue to work hard. “I never expected what I am seeing in Brazzaville because I thought I could make a headway among the senior players.
“But what I have seen from the quality of play has shown me that I must work hard and train well. I still need to spend more time in training”.
The Kenyan teenager, however, openly expressed his admiration for the African number one seed, Omar Assar of Egypt, describing Assar as the best player in the continent due to his quality of play.
Muturi added that he was also still excited at the quality possessed by Segun Toriola of Nigeria, in spite his age. “I am surprised that Toriola is still playing well because I have been hearing about him when I was much younger.
“Seeing him in this competition has shown that he still has a lot to offer. He is a very friendly athlete and I love his attitude, on and off the table,” he said
Amina Kibone, 23, from Uganda admitted that attending the Games has given her hopes of becoming a star in future.
“At 23, I have been thinking that I am too old to play, but from what I have seen in Brazzaville, I think I am still young to play the game.
“I am particularly encouraged when I saw that Olufunke Oshonaike of Nigeria, still playing good game in spite of being among the oldest players of the competition.
“Also, I found out that it is easier to be the best in Africa because all the players have same style and I just need to train well to be at par with them,” Kibone said.
She also commended the skills displayed by the Angolan teenagers. “I love the style of the Angolan girls because they are young and playing good”.
The 20- year-old Waseem Alshawish from Libya described his debut experience as ‘fantastic’. “I am really enjoying every moment of the competition because I have seen a lot of great players and I hope I can learn from them” .
Alshawish, however, admitted that the war that ravaged Libya adversely affected his country’s preparation for the Games.
“It was not easy training in Libya because we have been without electricity for a very long time. It is hard to train as the funds have not been made available.
“But for now the country is a bit stable and that is why we were able to attend the Games,” he said.
Alshawish said they were in Brazzaville to make the top 10 in ranking in order to make the list of African teams to feature at the 2016 World Championship in Malaysia.
An excited Sannah Lagsir of Algeria said she relished every moment of the competition being her debut as a member of the Algerian senior team.
“I am very happy, being in Brazzaville and I hope we can make it to the medal table because we have prepared well for this competition.
“Also I am looking forward to a medal in the women’s doubles with my partner, Islem Laid,” she said.
Meanwhile, some senior players at Games have commended the performance of debutants players in the Games.
The seniors described the young players’ efforts as encouraging, saying they could in future become world beaters.
Oshonaike, the oldest female player in the tournament said she was really impressed with the performance of the young players in the competition. “Some of them gave most of us the older players tough time, they really played very well’’.
The Egyptian Dina Meshref in her comment said it was difficult playing the young players. “Playing the younger players, especially the debutants has not been easy.
“Apart from the fact that some of us played against them for the first time, they also have speed to their advantage,” Meshref said.