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African Championships 2014: South Africa Reign Supreme

South Africa emerged champions at the African Championships 2014, beating Nigeria 3-1 in the final at Lobatse Sports Complex, Botswana, yesterday.

South Africa (BWF home page and below) got off to a great start with their Mixed Doubles pair, Willem Viljoen and Michelle Butler Emmelt, getting the better of Olaoluwa Fagbemi and Dorcas Adesokan 21-14 21-14.

It was a similar story in the Men’s Singles as Jacob Maliekal (below) dominated Victor Makanju. The South African took just 23 minutes and his superiority overall was confirmed by the score 21-10 21-7.

Nigeria’s ace in the pack was African champion Grace Gabriel and she cruised to a 21-14 opening game victory over Elme De Villiers. The South African refused to surrender without a fight: even though she was down two match points, she gave it everything and had her own game point at 21-20. The match became a tense thriller with nothing to separate the two and at last Gabriel edged past her opponent 28-26, giving Nigeria a lifeline.

It was up to Eneojo Aba and Olaoluwa Fagbemi of Nigeria to equalise in Men’s Doubles and they produced a sensational effort against South Africa’s Andries Malan and Willem Viljoen, which however fell short, 21-16 22-20.

“After we lost in the Men’s Doubles this morning against a very good Mauritius side, we were a bit nervous,” said South African captain Viljoen. “The pressure was more this year than last year as everybody was expecting us to win now. We are very happy and we will look forward for the individual event now. The individual championships will be very tough as most of us are defending champions and also the other African countries have progressed a lot since last time.”

Jacob Maliekal, who had ensured that the Men’s Singles match had gone South Africa’s way, said: “It’s the fourth time that I’ve won gold in the team event and I am very glad to have achieved this. This year it was very special to us because we had to confirm our victory from last year and we did it very convincingly.”

HIGHLIGHTS:

* In the semi-finals, Nigeria came from behind to beat Seychelles 3-1 while South Africa escaped a sticky situation against Mauritius and survived with a 3-2 score.

* South Africa were in Group A with Seychelles, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Cameroun, while Nigeria were in Group B with Mauritius, Egypt, Zambia and Congo. South Africa and Seychelles were toppers in Group A and Nigeria and Mauritius in Group B.

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