Filipino table tennis SEA Games veteran Richard Gonzales topped his group to advance to the men’s singles semifinal round at the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium C, Naypyitaw, Myanmar.
En route to topping Group D, Gonzales first faced Malaysia’s reigning national champion Muhd Shakirin Ibrahim who he beat 3-2.
In an effort effort to lunge for the ball at the deciding set with Shakirin, Gonzales hurt his ankle and grimaced in pain on the floor.
After a brief 10-minute break, he got back on his feet and hobbled his way to beat the Shakirin 3-2 (8-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7, 13-11) to the roaring applause of spectators. And he did not stop there.
He went on to play in another group match against Thailand’s Chaisit Chaitat and, despite limping around, he scored a sensational 3-1 (2-11, 11-7, 14-12, 11-8) win.
From his back-to-back win with the favorites in his group, he was all pumped up as he faced Phinith Kongphet of Lao in his third match, and Sok Long Lim of Cambodia in his last match.
Gonzalez beat both Kongphet and Lim 3-1 and 3-0 respectively to advance to the semifinal round today against Singapore’s Zhan Jian.
Gonzales has long been representing Philippines in every SEA Games since 1995 edition in Chiangmai, and he won his first SEA Games silver medal only in 2005 edition in Manila.
This year, he is hoping to equal or even surpass his 2005 silver medal, though it would be very tough to do so since he will be facing Singapore’s China imports, Clarence Chey Zheyu and Zhan Jian.
In the women’s singles, Ian Lariba easily beat her Malaysia opponent on her first of two matches in Group W. She beat Ying Ho of Malaysia 3-0 (11-5,11-8,11-8).
She then faced Singapore’s Siyun Isabelle Li in her second and final match.
Determined to advance to the semifinal round, Lariba showed great form to tie with the Singaporean 2-2 after four sets (4-11,11-8,8-11,12-10).
In the final deciding set, she gave Li a good fight, but eventually lost 11-7 in the final deciding set.