Nigeria has dominated the ongoing Festival of Table Tennis in Lagos after Taiwo Mati and Fatimo Bello emerged winners of the men's and women's events in the Africa Western Region Championships.
FestivalofTT2022: How Nigerians dominated ITTF Africa Western Region Championships
Nigeria's Taiwo Mati won the men’s event for the first time while Fatimo Bello retained the women’s title
Mati defeated two former champions to win his maiden ITTF West African Region Championships Gold medal in the Men's singles.
Mati, who finished fourth at the national trials organized by the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), found his mojo after he defeated the highly-rated 2019 champion, Oba Oba Kizito of Cote d’Ivoire in the quarterfinal as well as his compatriot and 2021 champion Rilwan Akanbi in the semifinal on his way to the final.
In a keenly contested final against another of his compatriot, the talented Azeez Solanke, Mati came through a marathon match to win 4-1. He won 11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-8) to become the new regional champion, for the first time in his career.
An excited Mati attributed his triumph to the disappointment he experienced during the national trials.
"I could not believe that I would finish fourth at the national trials and this really motivated me to work harder for this competition," he said moments after the victory.
"I knew I had to be at my best to be the best and today I was able to show that against my tough rival. He wanted to come back but I just kept to my tactics and this paid off for me at the end of the day for me to win my first regional title."
Fatimo Bello reigns supreme in the women’s category, retains regional title
In the women’s singles, Fatimo Bello claimed her third consecutive title to make it a clean sweep for Nigeria. Bello continued her dominance with another victory over compatriot Bose Odusanya in the final.
Bello, who has remained unbeaten since 2019 when she won the maiden title in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire showed her class when it mattered most with 4-2 (11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-5, 11-4) over Odusanya.
For Bello, winning this year’s title was tougher than the previous ones.
"I think this year was a bit challenging for me, especially playing against my compatriots," she said. "I knew I had to do something different to ensure I retained my title and this I did for things to work out for me and I am happy hoping that this would prepare me for the next two competitions – African Club Championships and Africa Cup,” she said.
Players from Mali, Togo, Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ghana, Senegal, and Cote d’Ivoire featured in the three-day championships which also served as qualification for the 2022 African Championships taking place in Algiers later in the year.