Golden Eniola Bolaji leads the Nigerian team to qualify for the semi-finals of all the events they participated in
LUGOGO STADIUM, KAMPALA: Soft-spoken Eniola Bolaji, aka Shea Butter, fresh from winning Gold at the just-concluded Uganda Para badminton international tournament in the Standing Upper (SU) 5 category, rallied her teammates to qualify for the Semi-finals of the Africa Para badminton Championship in all their events as the championship entered its fourth day.
“We have been out in the cold for too long,” she told BCA Tv, “and it’s high time we regained our past glory in Para badminton. We have a very good team hungry for success under the leadership of our coach, Adewale Olasunkanmi, who has made us believe in ourselves again.”
Famously remembered as the first African Para badminton athlete to ever win a Gold Medal in an international tournament at the 2021 Spanish Para badminton international, Eniola combined with Chigozie Jeremiah Nnanna (who was fully sponsored by BCA to attend the tournament) in the SL3-SU5 Mixed Doubles event which started the day’s competition, stunning Uganda’s Godfrey Katalo and the 2020 Paralympian Ritah Asiimwe 21-9, 21-4.
“I want to specifically thank the President of our Federation, Mr. Francis Orbih Esq, for all his support and never losing faith in me. I am going to bring home all four Gold Medals to make him proud of me.”
Gbenga Sunday Olanipekun did not disappoint either in Nigeria’s second quarterfinal of the day, overcoming Egypt’s Walid Abdelghany Elsaied in the Men’s Singles SL3 event 21-14, 21-10.
“This is my first Africa Championship, and I want to give my country Gold,” he said. “The experience gained at the Uganda Para Badminton International Tournament is proving invaluable as we get to the final stages of the Championships. I am happy about my game as I made fewer mistakes.”
Zambia’s Breitner Njele was next on Nigeria’s chopping board against Ifeanacho Emmanuel Ohaeri in the Men’s Singles Wheelchair (WH) 2, and the Nigerians maintained the same script with Emmanuel beating Breitner 21-5, 21-4.
In the Men’s Singles SL4, Pierre Damien Ahonounkoun from Benin tried to rain on the Nigerians’ parade, but he was no match for Chigozie Jeremiah Nnanna, losing 4-21, 6-21.
“This has been an exciting outing for me,” said Pierre. “I am grateful to the BCA and my federation for the support they have given to our team and also the other participating teams. I gave my best; however, Chigozie got the better of me. I am taking the lessons learned to improve my game.”
Chukwuebuka Sunday Eze in the Men’s Singles SL3 defeated David Mukisa 21-11, 21-11 to bring the Nigerians’ tally of semi-final qualification slots to 6. To bring the curtains down, the Nigerian pair of Olanipekun and Okoro were up against the experienced Hassan Mubiru and Elizabeth Mwesigwa, looking to also secure a slot in the semi-finals of the Mixed Doubles SL3-SU5 combination. Buoyed by the home fans, the Ugandans started off well, taking the first game 21-12. However, the Nigerians put up a spirited comeback in the second game for a 21-16 win, leveling the score to 1-1. The third game was more tactical, with the Ugandans looking to outwit the Nigerians. Leading the charge for the Ugandans, Hassan Mubiru worked tirelessly but to no avail, as Olanipekun was equally up to the task, denying the Ugandans the third game for an eventual win of 21-11.
You can check out the results of the other matches in the link