MEMBERS of the Philippine table tennis squad to the 20th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur are trying their best to cope with the absence of top player Ian Lariba.
“The players have yet to fully recover,” said Table Tennis Association of the Philippines (TATAP) president Ting Ledesma during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Golden Phoenix Hotel in Pasay City.
“It’s Yanyan (Lariba) that’s on their minds. They want to see her and visit her and find ways to help her. But we keep on telling them to continue the fight,” he added.
Ledesma said Lariba, 22, a veteran of the 2016 Rio Olympics, was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks ago. While everybody is hoping for her recovery, her name has been stricken out of the SEA Games lineup.
Ledesma admitted that despite Lariba’s condition, they wanted to keep her name in the lineup, but had to do the practical thing of naming a replacement.
“Even at the last minute we wanted to include her name on the list,” said Ledesma, adding that keeping the team focused on the SEA Games is now their main priority.
“We, including the coaches and the association, have been urging the players to keep their focus on the SEA Games,” said Ledesma in the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Golden Phoenix Hotel, Accel, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
The TATAP chief is praying for Lariba's speedy recovery, and depending on her condition by the time the SEA Games is held August 19 to 31, they would consider taking her to Kuala Lumpur to help motivate the team.
"That would be nice. Yanyan would be a big inspiration to the them," Ledesma said.
Seven gold medals will be up for grabs in table tennis in Kuala Lumpur, and Ledesma said the Philippines will be happy to land a medal of any color.
Richard Gonzalez was the last Filipino table tennis player to make a SEA Games podium, winning a silver medal during the 2015 edition in Singapore.
Aside from Gonzalez, vying for medals in Kuala Lumpur are John Nayre, Ryan Jacolo, Isias Seronio, Japeth Adaza in the men’s side, and Sendrina Balatbat, Rose Jean Fadol, Emy Rose Dael, Rizumo Ono and Jamaica Sy.
“We are hoping for a medal in Kuala Lumpur,” said Ledesma.