Rio-bound Ian Lariba to train in South Korea, Japan

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By becoming the very 1st Filipino table tennis player to ever qualify in the Olympics, Ian Lariba will be competing head on with the world’s top athletes in the sport in the Rio Olympics this August.

Is she intimidated when she comes face to face with the world’s best in Brazil?

“Knowing na after the game, I was able to qualify sa Olympics, it gave me the confidence na maipapakita ko rin sa buong mundo that we Filipinos can also compete internationally,” Lariba said, shortly after the Road to Rio 2016 press conference hosted by official television broadcaster TV5 at the Jade Garden Restaurant in Glorietta 2, Makati.

The 21-year-old Lariba, a 3-time UAAP Most Valuable Player, earned a spot in the quadrennial Summer Games following her audacious 11-6, 11-2, 11-8, 11-5 win over Lilis Indriani of Indonesia in the women’s singles of the 2016 ITTF-Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Hong Kong last week.

The victory assured Lariba of the 11th and last Olympic spot in her event as she joins Filipino boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez, Eric Cray of track and field and taekwondo’s Kirstie Elaine Alora in the Rio Games on Aug. 5-21.

Lariba knows the odds are heavily stacked against her considering that China has ruled the sport since table tennis became a regular Olympic fixture beginning in the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea.

But the constant support and encouragement from her Korean coach Kwon Mi-Sook gives her the added boost to work on her game and focus on the ultimate goal of bringing home an Olympic medal for the Philippines.

“Sobrang laki ng influence niya (Korean coach) sa training at performance ko,” she said” “Siguro may perspective din siya ng pagiging international athlete because before, she was a world champion in table tennis champion and she really had this encouragement and motivation sa akin na she always see the potential in me to do good and be great at table tennis,” added Lariba, the UAAP MVP in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

“Nakaka-encourage din yun for me.”

Kwon bagged a silver medal in the 1989 World Table Tennis championships held in Dortmund, Germany.

Lariba said she intends to train in South Korea and Japan in the succeeding months as part of hr final buildup before flying to Brazil. – By Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava