Derek Abrefa and Cynthia Kwabi are two of Ghana’s table tennis stars who have continued to prove their mettle both at national and international levels.

In 2013, 22 year-old Cynthia Kwabi was named the Best Female Table Tennis Player by the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG), while Derek Abrefa inspired Ghana men’s team to make the podium at the 2015 African Ghana and he has remained an integral part of the West Africa team to various tournaments.

The duo has been selected to be part of the 32 players that will compete at the 2016 ITTF Africa Top 16 Cup in Khartoum, Sudan and they are eagerly looking forward to the two-day tournament.

At the 2014 edition of the tournament held in Lagos, Derek Abrefa finished in top eight after losing to Egypt’s El-Sayed Lashin in the quarterfinal stage.

However, Derek Abrefa is excited over his selection. “I am happy that my efforts is being recognised in Africa and the world at large. I think our performance at the last African Games in Brazzaville will boost our morale for the ITTF Africa Top 16 Cup in Sudan. After the outing in Brazzaville, the Ghana Table Tennis Association (GTTA) provided necessary training programmes to prepare us for the Sudan championship. I finished eighth at the last year ITTF Africa Top 16 Cup held in Lagos in 2014 top 16 and this time around I am hoping to make the top four and if possible win this year’s title come February.

Despite his tall ambition, Derek Abrefa admitted, “I know there are tough players in Africa but I want to assure Ghanaians that I am going to prove tougher than what they witnessed few months ago in Brazzaville.”

For Derek Abrefa, his main mission in Sudan is, “My target is to defeat anyone I meet on my way to the top four and I know it is not going to be easy but I believe that with God on my side I will get through and make Ghanaians proud in the continent.”

The Ghanaian number one player also expressed optimism on his compatriots. “I also believe in my Ghanaian colleagues and we are also ready for the African Olympic Qualifying Tournament as we hope to make it to this year’s Olympic Games.”

Like her male counterpart, Cynthia Kwabi is also excited making the list of top 16 players in the continent. But she acknowledged the superiority of Egypt and Nigeria particularly the skills of Egypt’s Dina Meshref and Nadeen El-Dawlatly as well as Nigeria’s Funke Oshonaike and Edem Offiong.

I’m very excited to be part of the top 16 because not every player got that opportunity. I think the performance of the men’s team at the last African Games has really motivated all of us in Ghana. Nobody expected us to win any medal in Brazzaville but our men’s team broke the jinx. For us too, we are motivated to do well and face any player at the tournament,” Cynthia Kwabi said.

She however was full of optimism with a scintillating ambition of making top four in the women’s event. “I want to be among the top four in Africa. And there is nothing stopping me from causing upset just like our men’s team did in Brazzaville. I’m fully prepared for the tournament in Sudan because trainings have been held domestically as we have trained very well for the tournament.”

Derek Abrefa and Cynthia Kwabi echoed that lack of sponsorship coupled with dearth of tournament have adversely affected the fortune of table tennis in a country which was once a force to be reckon with in the game.

According to Cynthia Kwabi who is a graduate of Sociology and Social Work at the University of Ghana, for table tennis to rise again in Ghana, she said: “We lack sponsorship as well as exposure as players. Also we don’t have latest equipment and this makes it difficult for the sport to thrive in Ghana.  We need permanent sponsorship from a table tennis company while professional programmes as well as clubs representations internationally including individual sponsorships are necessary and this has contributed to the progress of table tennis in Nigeria. More importantly also in Nigeria, tournaments are host locally hence contributing to players’ success.”