Takuma the hippo has been adopted as the mascot for the 2023 World Table Tennis Championships ©ITTF

A hippopotamus called "Takuma" has been chosen as the official mascot for the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Championships in Durban in South Africa.

Takuma was originally used as the mascot for the African Cup of Nations football in South Africa 10 years ago and since then the design has grown in popularity throughout the host nation.

It was originally the work of 13-year-old Tumelo Nkoana, from Mogogelo Village, north of Pretoria, in a nationwide schools contest.

"Mascots have a special ability to engage and excite audiences, especially younger fans, and we believe that Takuma will serve as a great ambassador for table tennis in South Africa and around the world," ITTF President Petra Sörling said,

"We hope that Takuma’s presence will help us to attract more young people to the sport and inspire a new generation of table tennis players."

Formerly widespread throughout South Africa, the hippopotamus is now only found in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, Limpopo and has been reintroduced into the Eastern and Western Cape.

Takuma is set to appear all over the city in the build-up to the tournament in promotional and marketing activities.

"The hippopotamus symbolises strength and abundance in African culture, and Takuma will be used to create excitement and increase team spirit and morale before and during the tournament," organisers have claimed.

Durban was awarded the tournament after receiving 90 votes against 39 from rivals Dusseldorf in an online vote at the ITTF Annual General Meeting which was held virtually in September 2020.

Schoolboy Tumelo Nkoana, left, originally designed Takuma for the African Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013 ©Flickr
Schoolboy Tumelo Nkoana, left, originally designed Takuma for the African Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013 ©Flickr

The 2023 World Championships are scheduled to take place from May 20 until 28 at the Durban International Convention Centre.

"The ITTF’s decision to hold the event in Durban is a testament to its commitment to the global development of table tennis," an ITTF statement said.

"This is an important milestone for the sport and ITTF believes that this historic event will provide a platform for the sport to grow further in Africa." 

It is set to be the first time the tournament has been held on the African continent since 1939 when it was staged in the Egyptian capital Cairo when England's Richard Bergmann won the men's singles and Czechoslovakia's Vlasta Depetrisová the women's.

The last ITTF World Championships took place in Houston in 2021 when China won four of the five gold medals, including the men and women's singles thanks to Fan Zhendong and Wang Manyu.

Only Sweden's Mattias Falck and Kristian Karlsson, winners of the men's doubles, prevented a clean sweep.