Ian Lariba gets new but familiar opponent in Congo's Han Xing for Rio Olympics debut
Ian Lariba has been sparring with Olympics opener foe Han Xing during training. Jerome Ascano

RIO DE JANEIRO — Ian Lariba will have a new opponent in her first match in the Rio Olympics as she battles Han Xing of Congo on Saturday morning (Saturday night, Manila time) at the Riocentro Pavilion.

Initially, it was reported that Lariba will face Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico to start her Olympic debut, but it turned out that it wasn’t final yet.

“’Yung unang labas, galing sa system ng IOC, hindi pa pala final ‘yun so dinisregard ‘yun. Final na ‘yung sa Congo,” said Lariba.

Incidentally, Lariba is familiar with Han, a Congolese naturalized athlete with Chinese descent ranked 161 in the world, as she has been sparring with her during training.

“At least napag-aralan ko na ‘yung palo niya,” said Lariba.

Despite knowing her style, Lariba said she won't be complacent as Han is a bronze medalist in the 2015 African Games singles and gold winner of the doubles of the same multisport event.

“Wala pa ring overconfidence kasi veteran player siya,” said Lariba, ranked 325 in the world.

Lariba said she has his hands full against Han since Chinese players are well-known in table tennis.

“Since Chinese player siya, malakas talaga,” said Lariba.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @jeromeascano