Taiwo Adelu

After awarding the hosting right to Nigeria to stage the maiden Africa Top 16 Cup, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has again considered Nigeria worthy by listing the Lagos International Classics in its 2014 World Tour.

President, African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), Khaled El-Salhy, quoting the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ITTF, Judit Farago, confirmed this new development.

“ITTF CEO has confirmed the approval of ITTF to include your very successful event “2nd Lagos International Classics” among the GAC World Tour Calendar of 2014 which means the following that the tournament will be treated as part of the top professional circuit of ITTF which is GAC Group World Tour. As an ITTF sanctioned event, it will be automatically uploaded on the ITTF Calendar of 2014 together with ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup without any additional fees from Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, NTTF, while the event will get higher ranking in 2014 than whatever applied for the current year with no World Tour. This will ensure better attraction from the top players to participate and gain more points and also to qualify for World Tour Finals,” the ATTF boss said.

•One of the Lagos State players, Olaide Atinuke in action at a recent tournament at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.

•One of the Lagos State players, Olaide Atinuke in action at a recent tournament at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.

The tour will hold in Lagos from 23-26 June, while the Africa Top 16 Cup will follow the tour between 27 and 28 June. Within three months of assuming office, the present board of the NTTF presided over by Wahid Enitan Oshodi, has brought vibrancy to the game with staging of the Lagos Classics and other national competitions, which table tennis buffs believe would help the game to grow.

In 2014, there will be 21 World Tour events in 21 different countries, which portrays how global the 2014 ITTF World Tour is.

According to ITTF, the world’s best players’ main goal on the tour is to gain enough points from these 21 events to qualify for the $1million World Tour Grand Finals to be held at the end of the year.

“The ITTF is very happy about the high level of interest on the tour and the number of new associations that applied to host a GAC Group 2014 World Tour event,” stated ITTF CEO, Judit Farago.

“With the varied locations across the world, 2014’s Tour will give an opportunity to every professional table tennis player to play on the world stage. The ITTF World Tour (previously called Pro Tour) is into its 19th year in 2014 and it is to our greatest satisfaction that it reaches out to all five continents,” she added.

The GAC Group 20014 World Tour is split up into 3 tiers, the highest being the Super Series, then the Major Series and Challenge Series. The higher the tier, the more prize money and ranking points will be on offer.

In 2014, the Korea Open has been promoted to the prestigious Super Series circuit, joining the same countries that hosted a Super Series in 2013, Kuwait, Qatar, Germany, Japan and China, to form the top tier of the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour.

The Major Series, which is the next highest tier, will see the world’s best table tennis players head to Europe’s traditional Open events: Sweden, Russia, Spain and the Czech Republic.

Australia, Philippines, Nigeria, Chile and Argentina are the new faces in the Challenge Series, which shows the true extent of the growth and demand of table tennis across the globe.

Philippines, Nigeria and Argentina will make their debut on the Tour next year; Australia was last time a host in 1999, while Hungary, Belgium and Chile come back after one year of absence to the Challenge Series to join these new destinations experienced organisers like Croatia, Belarus, Brazil and Morocco.