The African team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has now been unveiled. Announcing the race to Tokyo rankings, the BWF confirmed that the list will not change between now and the start of the Olympics, the official closing date of the qualification period. This is as per the revised Tokyo 2020 qualification system since no further tournaments will be played in the remaining window. Badminton, which was first admitted in the Olympics as a medal sport on the 5th of June 1985 at the Barcelona 92 games is allocated a total of 172 slots.
Unlike in Rio 2016 Olympics where Africa was represented by only two players in the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics presents the opportunity for Africa to showcase their champions in all the events. This unprecedented success is attributed to the gallant effort of our players, the Member Associations who tirelessly supported and invested in the players, and the BCA Road to Tokyo 2020 program where the players were not only supported financially but were also given technical and coaching support for the last 4 years. The BCA Road to Tokyo program also focussed its support in enabling the players to participate in the various tournaments in the qualification period and training camps. To achieve qualification in all the events the BCA Road to Tokyo program strategically concentrated on developing the skills of the doubles players which gave huge dividends on the BCA elite development structure.
“ We have a reason to celebrate this historic qualification of our players for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. For the first time in the history of BCA and under the current regulations, we will be represented at the Olympics in all five events. Congratulations to our players, you have made it and we are proud of you our heroes and ambassadors. I also congratulate and thank all the teams behind this remarkable achievement”– BCA President Mr. Michel Bau.
The hopes and dreams of Africa at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be pinned on these players and pairs:
JULIEN PAUL (MAURITIUS)- MEN’S SINGLES.
The two-time 25-year-old Africa Champion from Mauritius is our qualifier for the Men’s Singles event. Ranked 84th in the world and 78th in the race to Tokyo Rankings, Julien Paul will be carrying Africa’s hopes in this event.
“My goal for the games is to play my best and hopefully win some games or even some matches,” Said Julien who is currently training at the Centre of Excellence in Denmark.
“ For now, the training program at the center of excellence is focussing on my endurance and physical build-up but soon we shall embark on a more intense and match situation training” He added.
Since 2017 Julien has won numerous tournaments in Africa.
DORCAS ADESOKAN (NIGERIA)- WOMEN’S SINGLES.
The 22-year-old Nigerian Africa number one is currently ranked 89th in the world and 71 in the race to Tokyo 2020 rankings. She has 200 career wins, and she will be looking to replicate her sterling form in 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics.
“ I want to showcase all the techniques I have learned in my intensive training with coach Stewart from South Africa to make my country and Africa proud” She stated. Playing at the Olympics is one of her lifelong dreams and she is eager to learn and encounter the top players.
OPEYORI ANUOLUWAPO JUWON & OLOFUA GODWIN (NIGERIA)- MEN’S DOUBLES
The exciting Nigerian duo aged 24 and 22 years respectively are ranked 51 in the world, and 44 in the race to Tokyo 2020 rankings with 93 career wins. The duo who are the reigning 2019 African Championships doubles champions are currently training with the BCA Coach Stewart in South Africa.
“I believe if we can do this for 6 months constantly, we can dominate the whole world. We need good quality training like this. It’s just sad he has a shorter time to spend with us. But with these 10days of training, it feels like 1 month because I learned so many new things, like techniques and strokes. He’s a good quality Coach” - Olofua Godwin.
The Nigerian Doubles pair have had quite a successful run towards their qualification for the Olympics and they will be carrying the continent’s dream of at least getting to the second round in this event.
“Am happy that we qualified, it shows that the recent Road to Tokyo program that was designed to help us really works and with such /other programs that may be added in the future will also work but it will be preferable if the program starts immediately after this Olympics towards Paris 2024 it will give Africa an edge towards the world and we be able to compete not participate only I believe we have potentials and we can do it” - Opeyori Anouluwapo Juwon.
Hadia Hosny & Doha Hany (EGYPT) WOMENS DOUBLES
The Egyptian queens ranked 37th in the world and 40th in the Race to Tokyo 2020 ranking, will be representing Egypt and Africa in the Women’s doubles event. Hadia who has immense experience was the first African to win a match at the Olympics and for these games, she will be partnering with her long-time partner Doha Hany who achieved the unprecedented fete of qualifying in both the Women’s and Mixed doubles.
“I knew this dream was far away and almost impossible to achieve, “but I believed, and it just happened,” said Doha. “My goal is and will always be to get on the podium. I believe that I can achieve good results at the Olympics, so I will work hard on that” she added.
Adham Hatem & Doha Hany (EGYPT) MIXED DOUBLES
The Egyptian Mixed double is ranked 52 in the world and 44 in the Race to Tokyo 2020 Ranking list. Adham Hatem together with Doha Hany have 64 career wins in the Mixed doubles category and they will be representing Egypt and Africa in this event at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I am grateful to every sweet drop, every single point, every night away from home, every occasion I don’t attend because I have training or competition. I am grateful to everyone who believed in me. I can finally say that hard work is been paid off. I deserve to achieve one of my greatest dreams at this harsh time during the pandemic to qualify for the greatest sports event in modern history the Olympics (TOKYO 2020) a place where every sportsman/ woman dreams of, a place where only fair play is the motive. A place that stands against all barriers, racism, and discrimination. I am really glad to be a part of such a great event TOKYO 2020. - Adham Hatem
The Road to Tokyo 2020 also witnessed the cancellation and postponements of many qualifying tournaments due to the Covid 19 pandemic that hit the world at the tail end of 2019. This contributed to many players missing out on tournaments that would have made them qualify for the Olympics. For Africa, one such pair is the Algerian doubles pair of Koceila Mammeri and Youcef Sabri Medel who won the Peru International but the cancellation of the India Open, the Malaysian Open, and the Singapore Open was not in their favour.
A special mention also goes to Kate Foo Kune from Mauritius the winner of the 2019 African Championships who was in the running but could not continue with the qualification process due to her suspension.
Other African players and pairs are on the reserve lists and may clinch a spot between now and the draw in early July.