By Bosun Awoniyi
LAGOS, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Top table tennis players across the world are in Nigeria to compete in the ITTF Challenge Seamaster Nigeria Open slated from Aug. 8-12 in Lagos, Nigeria's economic hub.
A total of 169 players including 101 men and 68 women will compete in six events at the five-day competition which has become Africa's elite tournament sanctioned by the world table tennis ruling body -International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).
The Tournament Director, Kweku Tandoh, told reporters in Lagos that this year's tournament is the biggest so far, while adding that with the quality of organization, players across the globe are now willing to be part of the championship.
"We are so excited that the tournament is growing each year and this year we have more countries (and regions) and players and for us, this goes to show that we are raising and we will continue to do that as long as we are getting the needed support," he added.
The Competition Manager, Mounir Bessah, lauded the LOC for always adding color to the tournament while hoping that more players would be willing to be part of it in future.
For the President of Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Ishaku Tikon, the host - Lagos State has indeed put Nigeria on the global map by providing the platform for the tournament to thrive.
On his part, the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode has promised to give cash bonuses to successful Nigerian players participating in the tournament.
From the inception of the ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open, no Nigerian player has won the title in the singles events but assurance from Olajide Omotayo and Esther Oribamise has shown that the host will not disappoint this year.
Commonwealth Games silver medalist, Olajide Omotayo believes with the present form of some of the players, they are ready to wrestle the titles from the foreigners.
"We are all ready for the tournament this year because we have the quality to match the foreigners and I am hopeful that we will give our best and hope for the best this. The likes of Aruna Quadri, Bode Abiodun and Segun Toriola have always inspired us that we can be the best in the game. We are fully ready to see Nigerian players on the podium this year," he said.
Oribamise, a bronze medalist at the 3rd African Youth Games in Algiers is optimistic that things would look up for Nigerian players this year.
"We are all in good shape and I can tell you that all of us know what is at stake. Apart from the prize money we are also aiming to improve our ranking with this tournament," she said.
The much-anticipated ITTF event will be held at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium as heavyweights from 26 countries and regions including China and host - Nigeria battle for share of 46,000 U.S. dollars prize money of the tournament.