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Table tennis bet to carry PH flag in Rio

Ian Lariba of table tennis will carry the Philippine flag and the country’s medal hopes in the Rio Olympics, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) said yesterday.

Being one of the youngest athletes among the 12 Olympians, POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. also paid tribute to table tennis’ breakthrough entry into the Olympics as a primary reason.

Ian Lariba /

Ian Lariba

“We’ve never had one Olympic athlete from table tennis,” said Cojuangco.

Lariba, who secured the Rio berth last April in a qualifying event in Hong Kong, was stunned but ecstatic over her selection.

“First time I will carry the Philippine flag and I feel very privileged and humbled,” said Lariba, a Financial Management student at La Salle.

The opening ceremonies will be held on Aug. 5 with Lariba leading the way of a lean delegation whose athletes will compete in just seven sports.

Lariba doesn’t feel that her being the flag-bearer will affect her performance when she competes the following day.

“No problem, I am used to carrying weights anyway,” said Lariba, originally from Cagayan de Oro City.

Lariba and the other athletes are set to fly to Rio via Dubai this Saturday. The other athletes leaving this weekend are long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang, lifters Hidilyn Diaz and Nestor Colonia, golfer Miguel Tabuena, Kirstie Elaine Alora of taekwondo and swimmer Jessie Lacuna, who will plane in from Australia.

The six other Filipino medal hopefuls-boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez. hurdler Eric Cray, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal and swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi–will go directly to Brazil.

The Philippines is aiming to end a 20-year medal drought and gunning to win its first gold medal.

ki met with the team and staff privately Sunday night, showing players video clips from previous years and delivering a motivational speech about what it means to represent the United States. With the recent unrest involving civilians and police officers, the message came across even stronger for this team.