“It is my real aim to get my second medal after the one I got it in London 2012 and raise the flag of Egypt high"
Regional titles and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic spots are at stake at the Table Tennis African Para Championships from Sunday in Alexandria, Egypt.
Faith Obazuaye is among the top athletes to watch. The Nigerian is coming off a silver medal in the 6-10 category at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
Her teammate Chinenye Obiora won in the women's singles class 1-5 at the African Championships in 2015 and also won another three gold medals at the event.
Egyptian athletes account for just over half of the entries at this year's Championships, with Nigeria fielding the second largest team to contribute one fifth of the entries.
Eleven of Egypt's athletes won medals at the last running, including multiple class 10 gold medallist Abdelrahman Abdelwahab, and teammate Ahmed Sayed Moahmed, who both added to their tally of gold medals.
Sayed Moahmed also won a bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships and was the only African player to medal at the event.
Their fellow Egyptian team members Mohamed Samed Eid Saleh and Ibrahim Hamadtou are both looking to win in Alexandria and gain coveted Paralympic Games qualifying spaces.
Eid Saleh has won his category at every African Championships so far. He hopes to retain his title and is keen to compete at the Paralympic Games again.
“[I want] to defend my gold medal in class 4 and to qualify directly to Tokyo 2020,” Eid Saleh said. “[It would] be my fifth participation in a Paralympic Games... It is a great honour for me to represent my country in the Paralympic Games and to be a part of the medallists in such special event.
“It is my real aim to get my second medal after the one I got it in London 2012 and raise the flag of Egypt high.”
At 41 years old, Eid Saleh has two decades of form, making his international debut in 1999 and winning numerous major titles in the years since then, as well as achieving bronze medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games and the 2010 World Championships.
His teammate Hamadtou became an Internet sensation in 2014 after appearing in a video by the International Table Tennis Federation titled 'Nothing is Impossible'.
The 45-year-old plays table tennis by holding the racket in his mouth, and serves by flicking the ball up with his foot.
“[My aim for the Championship is] to get number one in my class 6 to qualify directly to Tokyo 2020. It is my real aim now to qualify for Tokyo 2020,”Hamadtou said.
“It is a great honour for any athlete to wear the shirt of his national team and raise the flag by qualifying for the Paralympic Games.”
South Africa are fielding a sole athlete, Theo Cogill, who competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, making it as far as the semi-finals, and won a bronze medal at the 2015 African Championships.
The African Para Championships run until 2 July.