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Kenyans in hunt for table tennis Olympic slots

Brian Mutua Kenya’s top seed in action. Photo/COURTESY

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – Four Kenyan players will battle for a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games when the table tennis qualifiers serve off at the ultramodern Olympique Stade De Rades multipurpose gymnasium in Tunis on Thursday.

Kenya will be represented by top seed Brian Mutua, Josiah Wandera, Doreen Juma and Lydia Setey and will be handled by Kennedy Otieno.

Juma, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology student at Kenyatta University exuded confidence despite the tough opposition anticipated from the north and west of the continent.

“We are not ruling out a go at the Tokyo Games, but the reality of the matter is that most of our opponents ply their trades overseas as professionals. Nevertheless, we will try to give it our all in the Qualifiers,” she stated.

Meanwhile, Mutua who was among the 16 players who graced the three-day ITTF Africa Top 16 Cup which culminated on Wednesday will lead the charge for Team Kenya at the Qualifiers.

He finished 16th overall in the star-studded continental extravaganza, an equivalent of the Africa Cup of Nations in football.

“I am hoping to minimise on the many mistakes I made in the Top 16. I tend to make errors while trying to attack instead of being consistent. I need to do a lot more on multiple balls and more phyisical training to be able to reach out to the balls easily,” Mutua stated.

Lydia Setey of Kenya will play in the ladies Singles

Mutua and Juma will also team up in Kenya’s doubles team.

Among those fighting for an Olympic ticket in mixed doubles is Nigerian legend Segun Toriola who arrived in Tunis on Tuesday.

The Nigerian who had a short coaching stint in Kenya will partner up with Olufunke Oshonaike who competed for Nigeria at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

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Segun has represented Nigeria at seven Summer Olympics debuting at Barcelona.

His biggest achievement at the Olympics has been reaching the Men’s Singles round of final at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, beating amongst others former world number 1 Jean-Michel Saive as well as David Zhuang.

There will be chances for 10 African players to progress to the Olympics and these places will be in contention in the three-day tournament that culminates on Saturday.

Four men and four women will make it to Tokyo should they reach the semis in the singles while two more players will qualify from the mixed doubles.

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