By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
PHILIPPINE table tennis bet Jann Mari Nayre faces a must-win situation after splitting his first two matches in the group stages of the men’s singles preliminaries of the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Nayre, who was the first Filipino paddler who qualified in these Games, opened his campaign on Monday with a hard-earned win over Nicolas Burgos of Chile in five sets, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, and 11-8 but bowed later to Austria’s Maciej Kolodziejczyk, 9-11, 8-11, 1-11, and 6-11.
The result has the 18-year-old Nayre needing to win against Rio Olympian Kanak Jha of the United States, the No. 1 paddler in the U18 world circuit, to advance in the competition when they meet on Tuesday at Table 4 of the Table Tennis Arena where the best under-18 table netters in the world are seeing action.
Against Burgos in his first game, Nayre, who has represented the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur last year and the Asian Games recently, attacked the Chilean’s weak back hand and stay focused the rest of the way after giving up an action-packed exchange in the second set.
In his game versus Kolodziejczyk though, Nayre struggled, failing to get his game going as he fell to one too many costly errors.
Despite his back against the wall, San Beda University Taytay’s Nayre is not losing hope and is vowing to give his best to go deeper in the tournament.
“I’m not losing hope. Anything is possible. I’ll just show up at my best,” said Nayre.
He added, “It gets tougher as we move into the succeeding rounds. I’ll just try the best I can not to get eliminated early.”
Nayre’s opponent Jha, meanwhile, swept his first two matches in group play, beating Kolodziejczyk and Burgos in that order.
Also seeing action today is Filipino-Norwegian kite boarder Christian Tio, who will begin his campaign at the Club Nautico San Isidro in Buenos Aires.
The Philippines’ Youth Olympics bid picks up on Wednesday when fencer Lawrence Everett Tan, golfers Yuka Saso and Carl Jano Corpus and Filipino-American swimmer Nicole Oliva start with their respective events.
Saso, the Asian Games double-gold medalist, is entered in the women’s individual stroke play while Corpus will represent the country in the men’s side for three rounds at the Hurlingham Club.
Tan will compete in the men’s foil while Oliva, a bronze medalist in the Kuala Lumpur SEAG, will make her debut in the women’s 100m freestyle. Oliva will also swim in the 200m, 400m, and 800m freestyle events.
ASIAN PARA GAMES
Meanwhile, simultaneously taking place with the Youth Olympics is the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, with the Philippines breaking through with its first-ever gold medal care of swimmer Ernie Gawilan who topped the men’s 200m individual medley SM7 on Sunday.
Gawilan of Davao City, who was born with no legs and an underdeveloped left limb, registered the best time in the event of 2:52.43. He beat out Chinese-Taipei’s Chen Liang Da (2:55.90) and India’s Jadhav Suyash Narayan (2:56.51).
He also won a silver in the men’s 50m freestyle S7 with a time of 31.93 seconds behind gold medallist Wei Soong Toh (29.01s).
As of this writing, the Philippines is at seventh place in the medal standings with one gold, two silver and two bronze medals.