Ian Lariba draws younger, higher-ranked Puerto Rican foe in Rio Olympic debut 
Ian Lariba in training Friday shortly upon learning she drew young Puerto Rican Adriana Diaz for her first opponent in her Olympic debut. Jerome Ascano

RIO DE JANEIRO – A younger and higher-ranked opponent from Puerto Rico welcomes Ian Lariba when she makes her Olympic debut on August 6 at the Riocentro Convention Center here.

Lariba learned on Friday (Saturday, Manila time) she will be facing teenager Adriana Diaz the day after the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ formally kicks off Friday of next week.

The Filipina ironically, serves as the country’s flag bearer during the lavish opening ceremony to be held hours before Lariba sees action in women’s table tennis.

While she is older than her opponent, Lariba said the 15-year-old Diaz has more experience in terms of international exposure and is ranked higher than her.

“Ranked 80 po siya and 15 or 16 year old siya, pero very active siya sa world tour, sumasali siya sa mga world tours, pro tours, so mas lamang siya sa akin sa international exposure,” said the 21-year-old Lariba after training on Friday.

The Puerto Rican is ranked no. 80 in the world while the 21-year-old Lariba is at 297.

Lariba and Diaz actually have something in common as they became the first table tennis player from their respective countries to qualify in the Olympics.

The national team player out of De La Salle said she has started viewing Diaz’s matches online together with her South Korean coach Mi Sook Kwon in preparation for the match set at 12 noon.

“Kanina pinanood na namin, medyo pinag-aaralan na namin ‘yung games at tactics niya sa YouTube. Nakikita ko na ‘yung laro niya,” said Lariba, who also watched Diaz’s match during the world championships in 2014 and 2016.

The Filipina is going all out in her preparation as the format calls for a knockout system where there will be four rounds before reaching the round-of-32.

“Kahit sa preliminary, knockout system na talaga,” said Lariba.

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