by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Quadrennial by quadrennial the number grows; a fact which reflects positively on the efforts made the ever more extensive ITTF Development Programme. However, it is not in all instances parts of the world where development is the key word that has seen an initiation in recent years.
At the London 2012 Olympic Games, Djibouti, Lebanon and Togo all made their debuts as did Latvia, a country that has continually been prominent in the Baltic region of the world.
Yasmin Hassan Farah was the player in action for Djibouti; she competed in the Women’s Singles event; as did Tvin Carole Moumjoghlian in the colours of Lebanon. Similarly, Komu Agbetoglo was on duty for Togo in the Men’s Singles competition; a situation that was also the lot of Latvia’s Matiss Burgis.
Five More Join
Now at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, five more National Olympic Committees join the list.
On Friday 25th March at the ITTF-Oceania Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in the Australian city of Bendigo, when Sally Yee qualified for the Women’s Singles event; Fiji became the 99th National Olympic Committee to gain representation.
Soon after, if any player in the whole world was to take her National Olympic Committee to the 100 mark and hit the headlines, it had to be the young lady who hits the headlines, as currently the most celebrated female athlete in her country.
It had to be 15 year old Adriana Diaz. She appears on television adverts and in the nationwide Walgreens chemists shop is pictured with mother all smiles promoting some mysterious product. On Friday 1st April she took Puerto Rico to the landmark number by emerging successful in the Women’s Singles event at the ITTF-Latin American Olympic Games Qualification tournament.
Notably, the following day, in the Men’s Singles event, Brian Afanador followed suit.
The century mark reached; next came Ian Lariba who became the first player from the Philippines to qualify. On Saturday 16th April she emerged successful in the Women’s Singles event at the ITTF-Asia Olympic Games Qualification tournament.
Furthermore at the Opening Ceremony she will be the standard bearer.
Syria and Finland
Later on Tuesday 10th May, Heba Allejji received the Tripartite Women’s Singles place to create a first for Syria, before on Saturday 21st May Finland gained its first representative when Benedek Olah, winner on the ITTF World Tour earlier in the year in Lagos, secured an unused Team Quota place for the Men’s Singles event.
At last representation from Finland, a country that is highly developed in the sport of table tennis and can argue it played a part in one notable name becoming an Olympic gold medallist.
The first time that many of us set eyes on China’s Liu Guoliang, the 1996 Olympic Champion, was at the 1994 Finlandia Open in Helsinki.