Top Pinoy table tennis bet back in training

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    BUENOS Aires Youth Olympic Games veteran and Olympic hopeful Jann Mari Nayre has been back in the gym over the past two months as he builds up his bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year, according to table tennis chief Ting Ledesma.

    “We were able to get Janjan (Nayre’s nickname) to train at the Paco Citizen Academy Foundation gym with South Korean coach Kwon Mi-sook,” said the Philippine Table Tennis Federation president, adding it is the same school where national player and former prodigy Keith Lynne Cruz works out.

    The coach of the school is Cruz’s father, Khenneath Cruz, who also handles the Mapua varsity table tennis team.

    Kwon, a silver medalist in the 1989 world table tennis championships, is also the former mentor of the late Rio Olympic Games veteran Ian Lariba, the first Filipino and female table tennis representative in the quadrennial sports showcase.

    Ledesma said that Nayre, 19, was supposed to compete in the Asian and world men’s singles Olympic qualifiers in Bangkok, Thailand and Doha, Qatar last March but both events were rescheduled to next year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

    Five Olympic slots will be up for grabs for the Asian qualifiers while another two will be at stake in the world Olympic qualifying tournament, according to Ledesma.

    “We are hoping that by next year Nayre will be ready to compete in both events and  that he will be able to follow in the footsteps of Yanyan (Lariba’s nickname),” he said.

    Ledesma added they are still awaiting word from the Philippine Sports Commission on where and when the rest of the national team can train since the PTTF training center within the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex is still closed after its venues were converted into COVID-19 quarantine facilities.

    With the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force overseeing the virus crisis, the PSC, Games and Amusements Board and Department of Health issued a Joint Administrative Order last Monday setting the guidelines for athletes in both professional and amateur sports who can resume training.

    But the guidelines were explicit for professional players in the PBA and PFL plus the Olympic hopefuls for combat sports such as fencing, karate, taekwondo and boxing.

    Successful in his efforts to bring the Olympic aspirants in combat sports back to the gym, Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino said that he would next lobby for the return to actual training of the other national athletes.

    Tolentino said his priority would be the athletes in the 36 disciplines that were initially included in the 2021 Vietnam Southeast Asian Games, with table tennis among them.

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