Ian Lariba, the Philippines’ first ever table tennis Olympian aims to inspire young athletes as she prepares to compete in the Rio Olympics from August 5 to 21.
“Since I was a little kid in Grade Three, I was already playing table tennis in Cagayan [De Oro]. I just played and practiced very hard. Hard work and motivation from my coaches have inspired me to work hard,” Lariba, a graduating financial institution student at De La Salle University told The Manila Times.
“Don’t forget the people who help, motivate and support you during time of training and competition. That’s my advice to upcoming athletes; you have to keep believing in what you do. Don’t be afraid to try.”
Lariba will be facing players from China, the powerhouse in the sport. She said she would just follow the instruction of national coach Noel Gonzales and Korean coach Kwon Misook.
Lariba is the fifth Filipino who qualified for this year’s Rio Olympics. The other four are Kirstie Ellaine Alora (taekwondo), Eric Cray (athletics), Charly Suarez (boxing) and Rogen Ladon (boxing).
Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal also met the Olympic qualifying cut-off requirement last week but her reenlistment as a member of the national team is yet to be approved by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association.
“So far, we already started training and conditioning. This is the dream of every Filipino athlete to represent their nation to the Olympics and win medals,” Lariba added. “I’m thankful to my fellow players at the Table Tennis Association of the Philippines (TATAP), may parents and coaches for guiding me.”
“I will do my best to overcome the everyday challenges. I know it is a tough task but I will do my best to win one set at a time, one match at a time. I will do my best to win any medal especially the gold.”
Lariba is one of the recipients of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Athlete of the Year plum together with Alyssa Valdez, Jessie Khing Lacuna and Queeny Sababo.
“I’m happy to win the UAAP Athlete of the Year award together with those individuals. They deserved this award,” said Lariba. Some members of the local sports media opined that Lariba should be the sole winner of the award.
Lariba is undefeated in the table tennis team event of the UAAP for the last five years.
Gonzales, the women’s national team coach, said that Lariba is a fast learner and has great skill.
“She [Lariba] never complained in training and she’s a fast learner. She is not late during our practice,” said Gonzales. “I remember there was a national tournament in Manila most likely in 2010, where she captured the entire events. That’s how gifted she is.”
TATAP President Ting Ledesma said that he already made a training program for Lariba, that would allow her to compete in two overseas tournament in addition to her usual training at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex Table Tennis Center in Manila, under the tutelage of Kwon.
“We are planning to send her to Korea to play in the Korean Open and Japan Open on June 5 to July 15,” said Ledesma.