For the first time, the Philippines is sending a table tennis athlete to the Olympics!
Ian Lariba earned the 11th and last spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics for the women's table tennis singles event on Saturday, April 17.
The De La Salle University athlete defeated Indonesia's Lilis Indriani at the ITTF-Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Hong Kong on Saturday.
She swept the best-of-seven match, 11-6, 11-2, 11-8, 11-5.
The green paddler is the first Filipino to qualify for the Olympics in this event since it was first included at the 1988 global sporting event.
Her Olympic training will start on the last week of April.
"I have to overcome that feeling na underdog ako. I need to boost my morale and self-confidence going to the Olympics," said Lariba in an interview for the DLSU Office of Sports Development.
"Preparation is key to self-confidence so I really have to prepare and more on mental strengthening," added Lariba.
Before earning her spot, the Pinay paddler lost to Thailand's Orawan Paranang, 11-6, 11-2, 11-4, 13-11, in the stage one Southeast Asia bracket.
She rallied in stage two of the women's singles, where she beat Maha Faramarzi of Qatar and Mahjobeh Omran of Iran. However, she lost to Thailand netter Nanthana Komwong in the Draw D final.
She then faced Indriani in a do-or-die match for a spot at the world games.
"Nung last game sinabi ko talaga sa sarili ko na ito na 'yung last chance ko so I just had to let everything flow... I just emptied my mind. I was just in the zone,"
Lariba is a two-time reigning UAAP women's table tennis MVP.
She is the latest Pinoy athlete to qualify for the Rio games, joining boxers Charly Suarez and Rogen Ladon, weight lifter Hidlyn Diaz, taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora, and Fil-American hurdler Eric Cray.
The Rio Olympics will be held on August 2016.