OLYMPIAN Ian Lariba doesn’t mind sharing the UAAP Season 78 Athlete of the Year award with three others, stressing the honor meant inspiring more athletes to strive for honor in their respective sports.
Speaking for the first time on the matter that has become the subject of debate after Lariba ended up being co-winners of the award along with volleyball superstar Alyssa Valdez, swimmer Jessie Lacuna, and softball player Queeny Sabobo.
“Sa akin wala naman yun. I’m very grateful pa nga ang privileged that I get to share it with athletes na malaki rin naman ang impact na ginawa sa UAAP,” said the table tennis player bound for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics upon guesting in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate on Tuesday.
“In the end, nakikita natin ngayon na tumataas na ang standard ng UAAP (ngayon).”
This marked the second straight season the 21-year-old Lariba won the highest individual award in the collegiate league after running away with the honor last year together with swimmer Hannah Dato (Ateneo) and chess player Janelle Mae Frayna (Far Eastern University).
But many insisted the De La Salle student should've been the lone recipient of the honor this time, not only after steering the Taft-based school to a season-sweep of the women’s table tennis competitions on the way to another MVP title but also for becoming the first ever Filipino paddler to qualify in the Olympics.
Whether she’s the lone awardee or not, Lariba said it doesn’t matter.
“Siguro normal lang yun sa mga sumusuporta sa amin, pero hindi na siguro kailangang sabahin pa na lone winner (dapat),” she stressed. “It’s really beyond our control kung anuman yung desisyon nila (UAAP). Let’s all just accept it and appreciate it.”
Lariba added people should understand every athlete has sacrifices to make, and that doesn’t make her, Valdez, Lacuna, and Sabobo any different from the rest.
“Bawat sports, iba-iba yung sacrifices na ginagawa namin. Hindi rin natin alam kung gaano kahirap ang training sa swimming, volleyball, or softball. Kanya-kanya ring journey (yan), kaya let’s all just respect one another.”
Other than Lacuna, Lariba said she hasn’t met Valdez and Sabobo in person. She hopes to personally get to know them someday and ‘collaborate for the betterment of Philippine sports.’
“At least ngayon marami tayong na-iinspire na young athletes,” said the Olympics-bound table tennis player.
At the same time, Lariba offered her UAAP Athlete of the Year award to the entire La Salle community.
“It’s my way of giving back to them for all the help that they extended to me,” she said.