by Ian Marshall, Editor
Born in Cagayan de Oro, Ian Nietes Lariba, known as Yanyan, first played table tennis when only nine years old.
One year later Noel Gonzales, the national coach spotted her when playing in Palarong Pambansa. Rapid progress followed; soon after she competed in provincial and national competitions, whilst also representing Corpus Christi School.
Later she attended De La Salle University specialising in management and finance. She represented the university at the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Championships. In her first season she was named “Rookie of the Year”, the following year the “Most Valuable Player” as she guided her team to the title. Later she was to receive the accolade of “Athlete of the Year”.
A place in the national team soon followed; on the ITTF World Tour she competed in 2008 in Singapore, before later being on duty on home soil in 2014 and 2015, as well as the following year in the Korea Republic. Additionally, she was present at the 2013 and 2015 South East Asia Games, whilst most notably at the Zen-Noh 2014 World Team Championships in Tokyo, she led the Philippines to first place in the Women’s Fourth Division.
Most worthy results but it was in April 2016 in Hong Kong when she achieved her career defining moment. At the Asian qualification tournament, she reserved her place in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, in so doing became the first ever athlete to represent her country in the table tennis events at the prestigious multi-sport gathering.
In Rio de Janeiro, she was beaten in the preliminary round of the Women’s Singles event by Congo Brazzaville’s Han Xing but the bright smile on her face as she departed the arena reflected that fact that she was proud to have represented her country, she given her best, she had achieved a major goal.
Simply, she had competed in the biggest sporting event of all, she had achieved what no colleague had achieved before; it was the pinnacle of a blossoming career. Less than nine months later in May 2017, she received the devastating news; she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, despite extensive treatment the illness was to prove terminal.
The charming character, the natural sincerity, the friendly manner, Ian Lariba is sadly missed; our condolences to her friends, family and members of the Philippines Table Tennis Federation.