by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Furthermore, the adoring group was duly rewarded, in the closest contest of the tournament to date; Brian Afanador beat Congo Brazzaville’s Suraju Saku in seven games (8-11, 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 11-13, 11-9, 11-7).
However, it was a contest with an air of controversy and one that was to underline the fact the young man from Utuado in the centre of the island, is a very mature 19 year old.
Leading 7-6 in the deciding seventh game, there was conjecture as to whether the ball had grazed the shirt of Suraju Saka; the umpire declared there had been no such contact.
Matters were level at 7-all; one wondered how such a decision might break the heart of the Puerto Rican teenager. It did but not in the way you may have anticipated; deep in thought Brian Afanador returned, he took no risks, he played consistently, he made no errors. He won the next four points, Puerto Rican supporters rose to their feet in adulation.
“I was down two-three but every game I had a chance”, said Brian Afanador reflecting on a contest which was momentous in its own right. It was the first match ever for a Puerto Rican in a table tennis event at an Olympic Games; moreover, it was the first win for a Puerto Rican!
“Yes, it’s good for Puerto Rico”, added Brian Afanador. “Supporters here and I know that back home there were many people watching the match.”
Watching the match but there must have gulps of concern in the seventh game. “I thought the ball hit his shirt, maybe he did not feel it, I don’t know”, explained Brian Afanador. “After that point I don’t think I changed anything, I think it affected him more than me.”
More Latin American Success
A first ever win at an Olympic Games for Puerto Rico; it was the same for Paraguay but not at the first attempt, at the third attempt.
Present in Beijing, then in London; now in Rio de Janeiro but without a win to his name, it was success for 23 year old Marcelo Aguirre. He accounted for Australia’s David Powell (13-11, 11-7, 14-12, 11-9).
Likewise there was a first for Marcos Madrid, the Mexican who had narrowly missed out on place in the Beijing and London Olympic Games, experiencing defeat in the final continental qualification match, emerged successful. He beat Vanuatu’s Yoshua Shing (11-8, 11-9, 11-4, 11-1).
Impressive performances; it was the same from Iran’s Nima Alamian, Serbia’s Alexandar Karakasevic and Congo Brazzaville’s Wang Jianan as play in the preliminary round of the Men’s Singles event concluded. Nima Alamian beat Kanak Jha of the United States (11-3, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10), Aleksandar Karakasevic overcame Australia’s Yan Xin (11-8, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-3); Wang Jianan ended the hopes of Khalid Assar (11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-13, 11-4, 8-11, 11-3).