PH flag-bearer Ian Lariba: Getting ready for Olympic quest


MANILA, Philippines – When 23-year-old Ian Lariba arrived in Rio de Janeiro along with the bulk of the Philippine contingent that will be competing in the Olympics that opens in five days’ time, she hit the ground running.

“I was fighting jetlag and some tiredness and soreness from a long flight,” said Lariba, who will be making her Olympic debut. “My coach, (South Korean) Kwon Mi-sook, and I have developed a good plan in getting me back on my feet.”

The Filipina’s coach won a silver medal in the 1999 World Table Tennis Championships in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

The first order upon arrival was not only settling down but also acclimatizing. Game-wise, it was familiarizing herself and adapting to the venue with all the lights, table, flooring and size of the hall.

“Yes, that is important because you have to know what kind of conditions you will be playing in and adjust to that. That is why we arrived early so we can acclimatize not only to the time zone but also the playing conditions,” explained Lariba.

A typical day consists of two to three hours of table drills and system plays. Lariba does some jogging at 6am followed by brisk walking around the Olympic Village in the Barra Da Tijuca suburb of Rio. Afternoons are used for recovery and Lariba goes to the fitness center at the gym.

“I am very thankful that Coach Kwon is very supportive and encouraging,” beams Lariba. “I think we’re a tandem of balance. We are serious on what we want to achieve this Olympics and that is to showcase the best version of my game for the first match, but at the same time we want to enjoy the experience that we're here. She just always reminds me to give my "best focus" and do it one point at a time. Malaki rin talaga impact niya sa akin because I can see in her the passion for the sport and for helping me as well."

There was some earlier concern about Lariba being the flag-bearer because she could get soreness from carrying the flag during the opening ceremony since she will be competing at 9am the following day. A compromise was arrived at when delegation officials decided that once the Philippine delegation passes the VIP stand of the Maracaña Stadium where the ceremony will be held, she will pass the flag to taekwondo jin and fellow Olympic first-timer Kirstie Elaine Alora.

“There’s the option of not attending the opening but going to the Olympics doesn’t happen everyday so I will make the most out of it,” said Lariba.

Her opponent on opening day of the table tennis event is 15-year-old Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico.

“I feel old,” joked Lariba. However, she isn’t taking her opponent lightly. “This is the Olympics. These are the best of the best regardless of age. The Puerto Rican lass is ranked 80th in the world while Lariba is at No. 297.

"I know for her age that she is one of the top junior players in the world,” noted the Filipina. “But this is why we play."

The order of the next few days before the Olympic Opening - more workouts and study her opponent.

“This is why you arrive early,” she summed up.

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