Para badminton: Plaudits for Bolaji after Spain heroics

Kwara State Governor Abdul Rahman AbdulRazaq and several other sports enthusiasts have showered Eniola Bolaji with encomium for winning a successive Spanish title at the Spanish Para Badminton International 2024 Level 1 tournament in Toledo, Spain, on Saturday night, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

Bolaji defeated world number five Mandeep Kaur from India 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) to achieve the feat.

This came on the back of her women’s singles SL3 title win at the Spanish Para Badminton International 2024 in Victoria, Spain, last week, where she defeated world number six Oksana Kozyna from Ukraine 2-0 (21-13, 21-8) to clinch the title.

It was her third Spanish title since making her debut in the competition three years ago.

Reacting to Bolaji’s feat, AbdulRazaq stated that her achievements underlined the fact that disabilities exist only in our imagination.

“These successive feats of Bolaji again underline the fact that disabilities exist only in our imagination. We are excited about the deserving successes of Bolaji, whose talents, hard work, and focus have rightly earned her a choice place in the global badminton community,” the governor said in a statement.

He also urged her not to relent in her quest to rise to the top of her career.

In his remarks, President of the Badminton Federation of Nigeria, Francis Orbih, said Bolaji has proven that her feat in Victoria a week ago was not a fluke.

He said, “She has proven herself to be a formidable competitor and a force to be reckoned with. Her dedication, hard work, and talent have earned her this well-deserved win, and we are incredibly proud of her achievements.

“Her victory is not only a personal triumph but also a victory for Nigeria and for the sport of para badminton.”

Also reacting to Bolaji’s feat was Obiageli Solaja, a former badminton star who won three gold medals at the 1996 All Africa Championships.

She praised the 19-year-old for her remarkable feat in Spain.

“Winning two titles in a space of 10 days shows her efforts were not fluke, Solaja told PUNCH Sports Extra.

“She defeated world-rated players in the top five en route to her title win, and this shows she is destined for a gold medal at the Paralympics.

“She has a fighting spirit, and she’s well focused. That is how you know true champions—she doesn’t need the crowd to shine. She is mentally strong to excel.”

Meanwhile, Bolaji also expressed appreciation to the federations for their support.

She said, “I am very thankful to the Badminton Federation of Nigeria, who have supported me and sent me to Spain,” she told PUNCH Sports Extra after her victory.

“I know much is expected of me, and I will not disappoint Nigerians.”

En route to her triumph, the 19-year-old, who is currently ranked seventh in the Women’s SL3 according to the World Para Badminton governing body, defeated two players ranked in the top five in her category.

In the first round, she defeated Coraline Bergeron from France in two straight sets 2-0 (21-9, 21-17) and continued her winning streak in the second round, beating Parul Dalsukhbhai Parmer from India 2-0 (21-9, 21-7).

Bolaji overcame world number four Manasi Jochi from India 2-0 (22-20, 21-10) in the third round to secure a spot in the semi-final, where she also edged world number three Halime Yildiz from Turkey 2-0 (21-16, 21-8).

<<Punch>>