Lagos State has started yielding its reward in grassroots sports development, as the Nimota Aregbesola-inspired team emerged as the overall winner at the second Toyin Okenla-Ojeaga National U-17 table tennis championship.
The one-week tournament climaxed at the weekend with host – Lagos clinching four gold, three silver and four bronze medals to beat Ondo to the title.
Also, Ondo – a state which has been trailing Lagos in virtually most of the events, garnered two gold and two silver medals to play second fiddle to Lagos, while Kwara settled for third with one gold and one silver medals.
Ekiti State-tutored by Olabode Ajayi has three bronze medals, while the national team also clinched one silver and two bronze medals.
To ensure that Lagos scooped the top prize, Aregbesola defeated Zainab Surmer of National Team 9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9, 11-4 to clinch the girls’ singles title, while Amadi Umeh of Ondo State beat his compatriot – Sunday Akomolafe 7-11, 11-8, 10-12, 12-14, 11-9, 13-11, 11-4 to win the boys’ event of the competition.
Over 25 states across the country participated in the championship held at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
Speaking during the final at the weekend, the sponsor of the competition, Toyin Okenla-Ojeaga, said the tournament is part of her contribution to sports development especially, table tennis, a sport that brought her to limelight.
A trained nurse cum educationist, Okenla- Ojeaga expressed excitement at the raw talents exhibited by the players, saying it is an indication that there’s hope for the future in table tennis.
“This tournament may have exposed the players to the national team coaches whom I expect to be searching for younger players that will take over from the older ones. They should be able to discover future champions.
“I am also interested in the academy of the young stars. We don’t know how they are fairing educationally, but if not for time constraints I would have initiated a pre-tournament seminar to enlighten them of the importance of combining education with sports.
“We started the competition in Lagos with the players drawn across the state, but this year, we want to give players from other states of the federation the opportunity to showcase their talents, so that we can widen the scope of the championship. I am a passionate advocate of youth empowerment through education and sports. I believe that education and sports are fundamental to development. This will help to fortify people and help in achieving desired goals in life.
“My prayer is that they excel in both areas of their endeavours, and experience a bright future in the game,” she explained.
Asked if she wishes to bring on board other ex-internationals to expand the sponsorship of the competition, she said: “I tell you it takes a lot to be able to do this, it is not cheap. It is sacrifice, an act of giving that I expect to yield the desired result.
But for the President, NTTF, Wahid Oshodi, the competition would complement the efforts of the federation to discover talents as well as showcase the talents for further growth.