In a thrilling culmination of the inaugural John Hetts Sports Foundation (JHSF) tournament on Saturday, Onaopemipo Adegoke and Rofiat Abudulazeez emerged victorious in the male and female divisions, reaffirming their status as Nigeria’s top-ranked players.
This exciting competition, which kicked off on October 25 and concluded on October 28 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, featured players engaging in intense battles, with matches played as the best of five games.
In the women’s final, Abudulazeez triumphed over Favour Utukpe with an 11-4, 11-7, 9-11, 11-2 victory, securing a 3-1 aggregate win. Utukpe, who had taken a hiatus from squash for the past two years, reflected on her performance, saying, “I think I did perform fairly, for someone that hasn’t been in any final or any major tournament. I stayed away from squash for months, so the fact that Rofiat won wasn’t surprising; there would have been an uproar if I did. I think I’m gradually beginning to get my groove back on; I just need to train more, restrategise, and keep doing what I enjoy doing.”
Abudulazeez, who celebrated her birthday on October 27, regarded her victory as the ultimate birthday gift. She commented, “This tournament wasn’t easy; everyone played at their optimum best. But I’m glad I won this final; it’s a well-deserved birthday gift if I dare say so myself. Favour was great today, irrespective of who won.”
In the male final, Gabriel Olufunmilayo provided a formidable challenge for Adegoke, initially leading by 2-0 in the first two sets of the best-of-five game match. Adegoke rallied and secured the last two matches, creating a suspenseful atmosphere as no one could predict the outcome of the final set.
Due to exhaustion, Olufunmilayo was unable to finish the match, leading to the retirement of the last set after 77 minutes of intense play. Adegoke reasserted his dominance as the top-ranked male player, ultimately winning with a score of 11-8, 11-8, 3-11, 8-11, 11-11.
Adegoke expressed that this was possibly his most challenging final, which had taken a significant toll on him both physically and mentally. “I lost the first two sets; I had to talk myself back into the game, which took a lot from me mentally and physically. Gabriel is a fantastic player. The match could have gone either way, and I’m glad I won,” he shared.
Sola Adekunle, the Chairman of the Yellow Dot Squash Club, expressed his satisfaction with the event’s turnout, acknowledging the unpredictability of the finals and the exceptional performances of the players. He encouraged squash enthusiasts to continue supporting these talented young athletes.
Wasiu Bello, the Tournament Director representing the sponsors, expressed their satisfaction with the tournament’s outcome and indicated that securing support for the second edition would likely be a straightforward endeavour. He also praised the athletes for displaying Olympic-level skills.
In both the male and female categories, the winners received equal prize money of N400,000, with the second-place finishers awarded N200,000 and the third and fourth-place finishers earning N120,000. Players reaching the quarter-final stage in both categories were granted N70,000, while those in the Round of 16 received N30,000, and the Round of 32 participants were each rewarded with N20,000.
This tournament holds the sanction of the Professional Squash Association and the World Squash Federation, underscoring its importance in the world of squash.