From Homeless to Gold: Table Tennis Player Triumphs Against All Odds

From Homeless to Gold: Table Tennis Player Triumphs Against All Odds.

Hope Udoaka, a gold medalist at the Renewed Hope Table Tennis Invitational Challenge held at the Indoor Sports Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos has disclosed that she had no coach or accommodation during the tourney.

Udoaka, who represented Cross River, made the revelation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Calabar.

NAN reports that the athlete, who is currently Nigeria’s number one junior table tennis champion, defeated Shukurat Aiyelabegan from Kwara State by three sets to one, in the final.

She had earlier won two gold medals at the West Africa University Games and a gold medal in the Michael and Felicia Alabi Table Tennis Championship.

Udoaka also defeated Rashidat Ogundele from Delta in the quarter-final before defeating Bose Odunsanya of Lagos in the semi-finals. Both players are former and present national team players respectively, and are players in the senior category.

“Though the competition was tough, my determination and strong will saw me through.

“The matches were tough, I didn’t have a coach by my side, I was playing and coaching myself and I was able to defeat a current and a former national team player.

“I dreamt about participating in the Renewed Hope tourney even though I had no support from my state.

“I arrived Lagos two days before the competition to acclimatise but I had no accommodation, so I was sleeping with other states’ contingents.

“I had to invest all the allowance I got from the West Africa University Games where I represented my school in the Renewed Hope competition. It was not even enough because I had to beg for where to sleep and feed,” she said.

The player said she was among the first 20 table tennis players slated for the event, “but without accommodation and proper feeding, it was difficult”.

She said it was sad that everyone sees table tennis as an individual sport with sponsorship and support very low.

“But when the glory comes, everybody wants to share in what they did not support,” she fumed. “To do well, upcoming players need support to get good rackets, balls, tables for training and sponsorship to go for competitions. It is the only way they can grow,” she said.

She commended some of the foreign-based stars including Offiong Edem and Haruna Qadiri, who came home and encouraged upcoming players with facilities and competitions while appealing to state governments to follow suit.

The Renewed Hope Table Tennis Championship held at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall on Dec. 23, was organised by the National Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) and Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC).




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