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African Championships 2014: Fourth Straight Title for Maliekal

South Africa and Mauritius shared final day honours in the individual events as the African Championships 2014 concluded yesterday.

South Africa clinched three gold medals and Mauritius two, with Jacob Maliekal (left) and Kate Foo Kune (BWF home page) starring in their respective singles events at Lobatse Sports Complex, Botswana. Foo Kune and South Africa’s Willem Viljoen returned home with two titles each.

South Africa’s Maliekal confirmed his status as the best contemporary African player with his fourth straight gold medal, beginning 2011. The defending champion was not troubled by Nigeria’s Abah Eneojo, taking just 19 minutes to overcome his challenger, 21-11 21-17.

“It been a long week for me and I’m glad I finally got my gold medal,” said Maliekal, who had earlier helped his country win the team title. “It was difficult to remain focussed throughout the tournament but I managed to keep my concentration against Abah. I started the match at a high pace to put pressure on my opponent. I won the first game quite easily and I tried to do the same thing in the second game.”

The hosts had reason to cheer in Men’s Singles as local boy Gaone Tawana won bronze, the first ever medal for Botswana in Men’s Singles.

The big surprise on finals day was that African power Nigeria could not win a title. Their best shot, Grace Gabriel, fell short to Kate Foo Kune of Mauritius. The latter was in form throughout the tournament and was able to extend her run into the final, winning the first gold medal for Mauritius after 12 years.

Foo Kune started the match strongly and gave no chance to Gabriel in the first set. Although the Nigerian rebounded in the second, Foo Kune was able to reassert her supremacy in the third, to take the title 21-14 14-21 21-17.

“I played her twice last year and I was expecting a tight match,” said Foo Kune. “I played very well in the first set but then I started to make many mistakes in the second game. But in the final game I remained focused and forgot about the pressure.”

The Men’s Doubles was a one-sided affair, with South Africans Willem Viljoen (right) and Andries Malan allowing no room for a surprise from Nigeria’s Abah Eneojo and Victor Makanju during a 21-8 21-15 victory.

“We are relieved,” said Viljoen. “It was a very hard competition and tougher than last year. The other countries are getting closer to us but we are happy that we were able to retain our titles.”

Viljoen was also in the thick of action in Mixed Doubles, where he partnered Michelle Butler against compatriots Andries Malan and Jennifer Fry. Viljoen and Butler emerged victorious, 21-18 21-17.

In Women’s Doubles, Kate Foo Kune and Yeldy Louison (above) from Mauritius faced Juliette Ah-Wan and Alisen Camille of Seychelles. The Mauritians started better and cruised in the first game, but the experienced Ah-wan and Camille came back very strong in the second and led 11-7 at the interval. “I was tired and I think I would not have been able to play three sets,” said Foo Kune. Her prayers were heard and the Mauritian pair clambered back to take the match 21-17 22-20. “In 2009, Kate and I won gold during the African Junior Championships and now we won again at these championships. I am also very happy as it is my first gold medal in a senior tournament,” said Louison.

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