Nigeria Open: Kid Star Okanlawon Dazzles As Sanwo-Olu Reaffirms Support
Oyo State-born star, 12-year-old Usman Okanlawon entertained fans with his near-perfect performance against the national junior star, Amadi Omeh in the men’s singles first round of the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open.
The kid star who was crowned the U-12 champion in Oman was competing in his first senior tournament and he threw caution to the wind to humble his senior counterpart on table six at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.
From the start of the encounter, Okanlawon displayed rare confidence to take the lead but Omeh restored parity to put the encounter at 2-2. The fifth match which was the decider was cheered by the fans and it was the youngster who had the last laugh with a superb win over Omeh to record a crucial win in his debut at senior level.
An excited Okanlawon said: “This is my first time of playing against him and I was told that I should play with confidence and so I did. I will be competing in the senior category for the first time, I hope to see myself in the finals and meet the likes of Aruna Quadri and the rest of them. But I am happy I defeated my opponent.”
Visiting Indian star – Soumyajit Ghost described the tournament as exciting following the huge presence of fans on day one of the competition.
The Indian star who is aiming for a place in the main draw said: “It was a good one for me and this is my first time in Nigeria and first in Africa. The fans are very cheerful. I will like to play each match and keep going match by match and this is my target.”
The qualifying matches end today as players are aiming for places in the elite stage of the championship.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has reaffirmed the state’s commitment to the annual ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open a table tennis tournament that has drawn over 30 countries to the state.
Governor Sanwo-Olu said the hosting of the tournaments has put Lagos on the world map, with players across the world, eager to be part of it.
Sanwo-Olu said: “We want to continue to raise the bar so that other countries will continue to come to Lagos to compete. We will not relent in our efforts to empower our youths – this has been part of our campaign promises to support our youths in actualising their dreams through sports. Wahid Oshodi has made Lagos State proud and taken table tennis to a greater heights in Nigeria and Africa at large. Our commitment to the sport will not dwindle and we assure ITTF that we will do our best to make the tournament more glamorous in coming years,” Sanwo-Olu said.
It was an unusual atmosphere on day one at the ongoing tournament as recently crowned Junior League National champion, Okanlawon Usman thrilled fans, beating former national champion Omeh Amadi in the second group game of the men’s singles.
Okanlawon who defeated Amadi by 9-11, 11-5, 11-8, 3-11, 12-10 (3-2) and he felt excited over his victory.
“This is my first time of meeting Amadi on the table, I was told that I should play with confidence and I did that, which made me beat him. I look forward to playing with the likes of Aruna Quadri and many stars.”
Former champion, Solanke Azeez hopes to get a place on the podium this time as he says no one seems to be a threat to him this year.
“I don’t see any threat because I know all the players in the U-21 category and they know me too. I have been training so hard for this tournament and, hopefully I will get a medal this time,” he said. In the men’s singles, I will try to do my best and I also promise to be a good ambassador of my fans,” he said.