Akingbemisilu leads Nigeria’s return to ITTF para ranking

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Bolawa Akingbemisilu has led the league of Nigerian players making their return to the ITTF Para ranking released by the world table tennis ruling body at the weekend.

Akingbemisilu, a silver medalist at the 2023 ITTF Masters Para Open in Italy, hit the top seven in men’s class five of the latest ranking , while the quartet of Isau Ogunkunle, Tajudeen Agunbiade, Faith Obiora and Ahmed Koleosho returned to the world ranking after their inactiveness prompted their removal from the world ranking.

It was Akingbemisilu who made his international debut at the ITTF Masters Para Open that became one of the biggest movers in the world after he became the only African in the top seven in the world.

With 1145 points, Akingbemisilu who was part of the 16-man team sponsored by the Delta State government to the first hurdle to Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, lost to Serbia’s Mitar Palikuca in the final to settle for silver in Italy and his performance especially his 3-2 win over Commonwealth Games champion Jack Hunter of England in the semifinal round became the talking points in Italy and he also been touted for a spot at the Paralympic Games in 2024.

Another silver medalist in Italy, Ogunkunle is now ranked 17th in the men’s class four, while Koleosho is rated 40th in the men’s class three.

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Team captain Agunbiade is rated 15 in the men’s class nine, while Olufemi Alabi also returned to 22nd in the men’s class 10.

The highest rated Nigerian female player is Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi ranked 11th while her compatriot Obiora is rated 12th in class five.

Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Faith Obazuaye also returned to the ranking as the national champion ranked 19th in the women’s class 10.

For the team manager of the para table tennis team, Sunday Odebode, the return to the world ranking would surely help the players to garner enough points to secure their eventual qualification for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, France.

“We are indeed excited with the performance of our players in Italy and the results have shown with the latest ranking released by ITTF.

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“This is a good start on their way to qualify for the Paralympic Games in France. We hope we can attend another competition before the continental qualifiers in Egypt later this year so that we can have more players making it to Paris and this would give us a medal chance in France come 2024.

“ We are grateful to Delta State for their support and we hope other states can take a cue from this gesture so that our players can garner enough points to be sure of picking their tickets to France,”Odebode added.

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