Table tennis as a fuel for a dream for UAAP athlete of the year
Her name was called as one of the candidates for UAAP’s Athlete of the Year for Season 78.
“Ian Lariba,” the announcer called out as it echoed across the University of the East Theater.
An unassuming 5-foot-2 shorthaired girl stood up, she wore a white and green sports jacket and climbed up the stage to join the other candidates.
Once again, the announcer said her name, this time not as a candidate but as an Athlete of the Year.
“I was so overwhelmed,” said the 20-year-old table tennis player from De La Salle University. “I did not expect this, what I know was remembering to pass an application for the candidacy [for Athlete of the Year].”
For Ian, table tennis is not just about playing the sport; it’s the game that changed her life.
Hailing from Cagayan de Oro, Ian did not pick up the paddle until age 9 when she found out she can be good at the sport.
She initially had interest in another racquet sport, the world’s fastest one, badminton.
“Actually I started playing badminton in the sports complex in Cagayan de Oro but I was small I can’t play it well, it so happened that the badminton court was beside the table tennis area so I made the switch,” Ian said.
From that simple move to the tables, Ian found her love, a love that changed her forever.
“I found it interesting to play because of the gulang factor.”
Upon making a name with a paddle, the university along Taft Avenue came calling.
Ian was going to be a La Sallian.
Making the most out of her newfound opportunity, Ian chose Management in Financial Institution as her major. She’s been taking the course for four years and will finish it by her fifth year in La Salle, which is also her last UAAP playing year.
“Table tennis gave me so many opportunities, the first would be education,” Ian said. “I get to study in La Salle for free.”
“Actually, I’m being practical. I know that La Salle is a very good business school and I wanted to invest for it. In the Philippines, people put a lot on education.”
From her sports complex in Cagayan de Oro, Ian has played in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar where she fell just a game short of the bronze medal.
“There are a lot of people who helped me to grow as a person and not only as an athlete,” Ian said.
For her, the game with the paddle and a small plastic ball is not just a sport. Table tennis is a major factor in her life.
“Sometimes I make decisions [in life] on how I would strategize on the table,” Ian said. “Table tennis is a very big part of my life.”
After getting surrounded with several recorders, a scene she’s not accustomed to, the unassuming girl went back to the crowd, found her friends and blended in.
She was not the brightest star, she was just one of the many smaller ones that blanketed the night sky.
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