NAIROBI, Kenya- National champions Brian Mutua and Sejal Thakkar will represent Kenya at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia and the Nairobi ITTF Africa Cup Top 16 Championships.
The Kenya Table Tennis Association (KTTA) announced Mutua and Thakkar would be the flag-bearers for the April 4 to 16 Club Games in Gold Coast in the Land Down Under as well as the continental event that will serve off from March 1 to 3.
“The two players cruised to victories in the KTTA national championships held at Visa Oshwal Centre in Nairobi where they bagged maximum points. They emerged unbeaten in their categories,” said KTTA President, Andrew Mudibo underlined.
“Mutua is one of the fastest rising Kenyan youngsters in the game. He is a product of our Tucheze Tebo initiative that is meant to tap raw talent from the grassroots.
“Thakkar, the never-say-never women’s table tennis star will be playing her fourth Commonwealth Games for Kenya this year,” Mudibo added.
“Playing against the Top 16, some of who we interacted with prior to Khartoum 2016 Olympic qualifiers which coincided with the Continental Cup will be all good and a moment to savour for long.
“Most of the players are ranked globally, so playing against them will improve our rankings and prepare us well for the Club Games. The essence is to give it our very best,” the elated Thakkar told SportPesa News.
“I’m very much impressed with my growth in the game. I embraced table tennis as a form two student at Mwala Boys High School in 2012.
“Looking back, I can only smile because I know I made one of the best decisions in my life,” Mutua added.
Meanwhile, organisers of the continental event are ‘working round the clock’ to ensure the country is ready for the showpiece planned for the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
“The ITTF Africa Continental Cup is a special event in the hearts and minds of the continental table tennis community,” Local Organising Committee chairman, Joseph Okelo, stressed.
“It is a real privilege to evoke the memory of the greatest players and adventurers of that period by hosting the most challenging historic cup which holds the key to the World Cup slots for the continent,” he added.
Cup holders Aruna Quadri of Nigeria and Meshref Dina of Egypt are some of the star attractions expected to light up the event with Okello expecting the entry list to be closed soon.
In the men’s category, Sami Kherouf of Algeria will represent the Northern region. He will be joined by Brian Chan Yook Fo of Mauritius. Yook Fo won the men’s category at the recent Easter Championships in Mauritius.
Egyptian duo of Assar Omar and Saleh Ahmed top the list which also include the Toriola Segun of Nigeria.
Segun, who played at an unprecedented seventh Olympic in Rio, conducted some training clinics in Kenya in December.
Mamia Thameur of Tunisia, Congolese Idowu Saheed, Oba Oba Chizito of Ivory Coast, Soufiane Harb of Morocco, South African duo of Lingeveldt Kurt and Lingeveldt Keegan are others lined-up for Nairobi 2018.
In the ladies’ category, 16-year-old Prathma Jalim of Mauritius and Saidani Safa of Tunisia will represent the Eastern and Northern regions.
Oshonaike Olufunke of Nigeria, Abdel-Aziz Farah of Egypt, Nigerian Olympian Edem Offiong and Algerian duo of Loghraibi Lynda and Laid Islem are other notables.
Others are Han Xing of Congo, Ivory Coast’s Sarah Hanffou of Ping Sans Frontieres, Tshepiso Rebatenne of Cameroon and Okockou Ira of Congo.
The Central, Western and Southern regions are yet to submit their qualifiers.