11 Aug 2019

Drama, nerves jangling, supporters on their feet, the closing day of play, Saturday 10th August, in the table tennis events at the Pan American Games in Lima produced what must rank as the most enthralling day of action in all the sports on offer in the Peruvian capital city.

The day belonged to Melanie Diaz as she secured gold for Puerto Rico in the women’s team event; a success that at one stage look a forlorn hope.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Facing Brazil, matters level; in the deciding fifth match of the fixture, the 23 year saved match point after match point in the third game against Bruna Takahashi, before securing the next two games (3-11, 6-11, 17-15, 11-9, 11-6) to send Puerto Rican supporters into hysterics.

Logic suggested that if Puerto Rico was to beat Brazil, two wins from Adriana Diaz, crowned women’s singles champion earlier in the week, was mandatory; it didn’t happen. After Melanie Diaz and Daniely Rios had beaten Caroline Kumahara and Jessica Yamada in the opening doubles contest, by the very narrowest of margins (10-12, 12-10, 8-11, 12-10, 12-10), Adriana Diaz lost to Bruna Takahashi (14-12, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8).

A day that promised so much ended in despair for Bruna Takahashi (Photo: Eugenio Savio / Lima 2019)


Unexpected, the result was a complete reversal of their meeting earlier in the week, when at the semi-final stage of the women’s singles event, Adriana Diaz had prevailed in straight games (11-9, 11-8, 11-3, 11-4).

The momentum was now with Brazil, Caroline Kumahara accounted for Daniely Rios (11-3, 17-15, 9-11, 12-10), before Adriana Diaz returned to the table to level matters by overcoming Jessica Yamada (11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 11-5). Thus the scene was set; a scene that is now etched in the annals of Pan American Games and Puerto Rican folklore, Melanie Diaz became an escapologist.

Desolation for Bruna Takahashi who, at the semi-final stage against the United States formation of Amy Wang, Wu Yue and Lily Zhang, had been the heroine. She had accounted for both Amy Wang (11-8, 5-11, 11-6, 11-8) and Lily Zhang (11-7, 11-9, 13-11) in a 3-2 victory against the top seeds. The one further win for the Brazilians had been recorded by Jessica Yamada in opposition to Amy Wang (11-13, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9).

Bronze for Canada (left to right) Ivy Liao, Alicia Côté and Zhang Mo (Photo: Paloma Mutti)


Meanwhile, in the adjacent semi-final, rather more comfortably, Puerto Rico had recorded a 3-0 win against Canada’s Alicia Côté, Ivy Liao and Zhang Mo.

The quite staggering success recorded by Puerto Rico, rather overshadowed an outstanding performance by the United States trio formed by Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar and Nicholas Tio, the men’s team champions.

Against the odds, at the semi-final stage they recorded a 3-1 win against the top seeds, the Brazilian combination formed by Hugo Calderano, Eric Jouti and Gustavo Tsuboi. Man of the moment was Nikhil Kumar; he partnered Nicholas Tio to doubles success against Eric Jouti and Gustavo Tsuboi (8-11, 9-11, 14-12, 11-9, 11-8), before in the third match of the fixture accounting for Gustavo Tsuboi (6-11, 12-10, 11-8, 6-11, 11-6). The one further win for the United States was recorded by Kanak Jha. After losing to Hugo Calderano (11-7, 11-4, 11-8), he beat Eric Jouti by the very narrowest of margins (6-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-4, 13-11) to seal the win.

Nikhil Kumar outstanding against Brazil (Photo: Paolo Lopez Zubiaurr / Lima 2019)


A hard fought semi-final win for the United States, it was the same in the final against the Argentine combination of Gaston Alto, Horacio Cifuentes and Pablo Tabachnik; a 3-2 victory margin was the end result.

Star of the show was Kanak Jha. After Nikhil Kumar and Nicholas Tio had given the United States the perfect start by overcoming Gaston Alto and Horacio Cifuentes (11-8, 13-15, 11-3, 11-4); in the second match of the fixture, he beat Pablo Tabachnik (11-8, 11-7, 11-5), before in the vital fifth and deciding contest overcoming Gaston Alto (11-5, 11-8, 11-5). The success halted an Argentine recovery. In the third match of the engagement Horacio Cifuentes had accounted for Nikhil Kumar (11-6, 11-3, 11-5), before Pablo Tabachnik had levelled matters by overcoming Nicholas Tio (11-6, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6).

Earlier at the semi-final stage, the United States trio had recorded a 3-0 win in opposition to Cuba’s Jorge Campos, Livan Martinez and Andy Pereira.

Kanak Jha, the backbone of the United States success in the final (Photo: Paolo Lopez Zubiaurr / Lima 2019)

A day to remember, one that defied the odds, one that for the United States and for Puerto Rico was very special, very special indeed.

2019 Pan American Games Melanie Diaz

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Day 5 - 2019 Pan American Games