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Badminton: Ambode’s investment yields great results – Francis Orbih

*Nigerians dominate Ivorien Open championships

*Omen of change has started

Lagos state governor, Akinwumi Ambode was decorated with massive praise for investing faith nd providing the funds which facilitated the Nigerian badminton team at the Ivorien Open championships in Abidjan. In all, the Nigerian contingent won two gold, two silver and four bronze medals.

The Nigerian badminton players on Sunday dominated the singles and doubles events of the Ivory Coast International Badminton tournament which ended in Abidjan with three athletes making the podium. This incidentally is the omen of change welcoming the newly elected board of Francis Orbih expected to be inaugurated on 10th July.

Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori is Ivorien Singles badminton champion
Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori is Ivorien Singles badminton champion

Of the 65 players who bidded for the Single’s crown, an unknown and unranked Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori stepped up to defeat better ranked players to win the Men’s singles.

Athletes from 11 countries sought for the diadem. Opeyori beat Jordan’s Bahaedeen Ahmad Alshannik 21-18; 21-16 in the keenly contested final.

In the doubles event, it was an all Nigerian affair. The pair of Enejoh Abah and Peace Orji defeated another Nigerian pair of Gideon Babalola and Uchechukwu Ukeh 21-18; 21-18 thus making Nigeria to dominate the first two positions with gold and silver medals.

As if not enough, another Nigerian pair of Jafar Salih Umar and Zainab Momoh won the bronze medal. They defeated a Ghanaian pair of Emmanuel Yaw Donkor and Stella Kote Amasah.

As the team that shone so brilliantly in Abidjan trained. As it is usual with the country in recent times, Francis Orbih, the BFN president-elect had to get sponsorship from the Lagos State Government to send the 25-man Nigerian team to the tournament.

It would be recalled that Orbih had intoned of the new wind of change when his team is inaugurated. His first outing was eminently justified with great result.

Barrister Francis Orbih...elated about Ambode's support for badminton
Barrister Francis Orbih…elated about Ambode’s support for badminton

“I am really grateful to Governor Ambode for his magnanimity in sponsoring the team despite a very short notice given to him. Little wonder, things are working in Lagos as an action man is at the helms. I am sure, he will be very glad that his efforts have not been in vain”, remarked Orbih in a telephone chat.

He added that it would have amounted to big disservice, if he had failed to facilitate the attendance of the Nigerian team in Abidjan. The team will move to Benin Republic to begin another campaign for honours on Wednesday.

Orbih was particularly elated at the success of Anuoluwapo Opeyori, a player he personally discovered as the chairman of Lagos State Badminton Association.

“Our participation in the West Africa Badminton circuit was preceded by a three-week closed camp for the 27 Nigerian players made up of nine female and 18 male players.

Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori is Ivorien Singles badminton champion hoisting the Nigerian flag high
Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori is Ivorien Singles badminton champion hoisting the Nigerian flag high

“We can see what camping does to players, instead of merely calling them up for trips to tournaments’, said Orbih.

On his way to glory, Opeyori beat Ghana’s Abraham Ayittey 22-20; 21-19 before facing a Nigerian, Habeeb Temitope Bello in the next round. He won 21-19; 21-16.

His most challenging game was against Nigeria’s Gideon Babalola. It was perhaps, Opeyori’s toughest match. He lost the first game 15-21 and was leading the second 6-3 before Babalola scratched owing to injury.

He then moved on to dispatch Ghana’s Daniel Sam 27-25; 21-11 to move to the final.

Opeyori was not the only successful Nigerian at the tournament. The duo of Clement Krobakpo and Gideon Babalola are joint third place winners in the men’s singles event. In badminton, the two semi final losers are automatic third place winners.

In the women’s singles, Nigeria’s Dorcas Ajoke Adesokan, ranked 296 in the world, was a third place winner with Egypt’s Hadia Hosny who is number 87 in the world.

In women’s doubles, the Nigerian duo of Zainab Momoh and Peace Orji were final losers to India’s Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker. The score lines were 21-11; 21-14 in favour of the Indians. Nigeria however won the silver while another Nigerian pair of Patricia Apusugh and Amin Yop Christopher won the bronze medal.

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