Richard Gonzales
Russell Palma
Gonzales dedicates table tennis bronze to Lariba
John Bryan Ulanday (The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Richard Gonzales, undeniably the finest table tennis player the Philippines has ever produced, may have settled for the bronze in the 30th SEA Games but felt quite sure that all his effort made the late Ian Lariba, a former teammate, smile from the heavens. 

“She should have been here,“ said the 48-year-old Gonzales, referring to Lariba, a veteran of the 2016 Rio Olympics, who passed away last year due to acute myeloid leukemia.

“It may be just a bronze medal but it’s for her. It’s for Yanyan,” said Gonzales of his bronze medal in the biennial event.

Gonzales fought and gave his all but fell short in the semifinals against favorite Clarence Chew Zhe Yu of Singapore. 

He was the lone medalist out of the Philippine table tennis team that struggled against stronger counterparts. 

Gonzales thinks Lariba would have been a sure winner in the just-concluded SEA Games if only she was around.

“She should have been a medalist if she was here with us. It’s a regret that she got sick because she was very promising,” added Gonzales of Lariba, who passed away at 23.

Amidst the remorse and sadness on Lariba’s absence, Gonzales opted to stick to the fact she’s in a better place now.

And with Lariba serving as inspiration, especially to the younger Filipino table tennis players, Gonzales may be on his way out after representing the country in international competitions for two decades.

Gonzales is gladly willing to pave the way for the next generation, which includes Emy Rose Dael, Jann Mari Nayre, Rose Jean Fadol, Angel Laude, Kheith Rynn Cruz and Janna Romero.

 “I’m already 48. We’re not getting any younger. I’m thinking about it (retirement) and looking at just coaching the young guns. But nothing is cast in stone so let’s see,” said Gonzales, who racked up a total of eight SEA Games gold medals. 

RICHARD GONZALES
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