By Olalekan Okusan
When Ethel Jacks walked into the venue of the 2019 ITTF Africa Junior and Cadet Championships – Sports Trust Emporium in Accra, Ghana not many of the players knew who she was. But some of the older coaches quickly recognised her and started exchanging pleasantries with the former African champion.
Her call at the venue yesterday was elicited by a special award bestowed on her by the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) in appreciation of her contributions to table tennis.
Although she is 76 years old, you could not miss the athleticism in Jacks’ steps and strides. When her profile was read before the presentation, an excited Jacks was welcomed to the stage by ATTF President, Khaled El-Salhy, who was assisted by President, Ghana Table Tennis Association (GTTA), Mawuko Afadzinu.
In her remarks, the beaming septuagenarian said: “I am so happy that this long-awaited recognition finally came to me in my lifetime. I am grateful to the ATTF for this special award and I believe this will also motivate the present players, showing them that their labour will not be in vain.”
The occasion must have brought back floods of pleasant memories for Jacks. It certainly brought back a recall of her great exploits with her late doubles’ partner, Ernestina Akuetteh. In 1964 and 1968, Jacks partnered Akuetteh to win the women’s doubles gold medals at the African Championships. Fittingly, Jacks called for a one-minute silence for the great Akuetteh of blessed memory.
For the ATTF helmsman, the award was in recognition of Jacks’ immense contributions to the sport. “Ethel Jacks put Ghana on the African map with her performance in the 1960s and 1970s. She is one of the three players in Africa to have won the African Championship thrice in the history of the tournament. So ATTF believes honouring her would inspire upcoming players in Ghana to aim high and exceed Ethel Jacks’ feat,” the ATTF chief said.
In her playing days, Jacks won the women’s singles title thrice at the African Championships commencing in 1964 in Accra, 1968 in Lagos, Nigeria and 1974 in Alexandria, Egypt. Her record has only been equaled by Nigeria’s Bose Kaffo and Olufunke Oshonaike.