Jann Mari Nayre split his two matches to put himself in a must-win situation in the table tennis competitions of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games at the Technopolis in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The 18-year-old table tennis wonder jumpstarted his campaign with a hard-earned win over Nicolas Burgos of Chile in five sets, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8, to make a statement in the group stages of the men’s singles preliminaries.
But Nayre, the first Filipino paddler who qualified for these Games, later dropped a surprising straight-set defeat at the hands of Austria’s Maciej Kolodziejczyk, 9-11, 8-11, 1-11, 6-11, in Group B of the men’s singles preliminaries of the tournament featuring the best under-18 table netters in the world.
“I’m not losing hope. Anything is possible. I’ll just show up at my best,” said Nayre, who represented the country in both the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur last year and the Asian Games in Jakarta two months ago.
Ranged against the 16-year-old Burgos, No. 27 in the under-18 world rankings, Nayre 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.
A right-hander, Nayre struggled completely against Kolodziejczyk, who spent most of the match pouncing on the errors of the Filipino table tennis ace.
“I haven’t met them before in any of the tournaments that I participated in,” said Nayre, who studied at San Beda University in Taytay, Rizal.
Up next for Nayre is Rio Olympian Kanak Jha of the United States, the No. 1 paddler in the U18 world circuit. The 18-year-old Jha is the toughest possible competitor that top favorite and senior world No. 8 Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan can face in the medal round.
“It gets tougher as we move into the succeeding rounds. I’ll just try the best I can not to get eliminated early,” said Nayre.
Apart from Nayre, Filipino-Norwegian Christian Tio will start his medal bid in kiteboarding on Tuesday, a new discipline under sailing in the YOG set to be held at the Club Nautico San Isidro here.
This Wednesday has the busiest schedule for the Philippines when fencer Lawrence Everett Tan, golfers Yuka Saso and Carl Jano Corpus, and Filipino-American swimmer Nicole Oliva begin their campaign.
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.