By Kabir Nagpal
Double Gold medallist at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, but Calderano’s absence did not hinder his compatriots as they cruised to team gold by defeating Puerto Rico in Asuncion yesterday. This was in conjunction with the silver attained by the women’s team after a tantalising match versus Team United States.
The winning team consisted of Gustavo Tsuboi, Eric Jouti, Vitor Ishiy and Thiago Monteiro – all of whom had a critical part to play. For the title decider, it was a convincing 3-1 win against Puerto Rico. Backbone of this success was the experienced Tsuboi, who beat both Angel Naranjo (11-4, 11-7, 11-9) and Daniel Gonzalez (11-4, 11-5, 11-3) in straight games to secure the crowning moment.
This was possible after Jouti made sure there were no slip-ups in the third match when he accounted for Brian Afanador (11-9, 10-12, 11-2, 11-9), who had combined with Gonzalez to beat Ishiy and Jouti (9-11, 11-3, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9) in the first fixture.
Such an impressive showing was hugely enjoyed by the Brazilian fans, who were certainly worried about the missing World no.6 Calderano. More so than this, the consistency of the women’s performance speaks volumes of the strength in depth of Team Brazil as a whole.
Bruna Takahashi has been the embodiment of that consistency lately, and she maintained that in the matches here in Paraguay. Against Chile, the 19-year-old clinically defeated both Valentina Rios (11-2, 11-9, 14-12) and Paulina Vega (8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7) at the semi-finals stage.
This came after her teammates Caroline Kumahara and Jessica Yamada had helped Takahashi in recording a 3-1 win against the no.2 seeds, Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz, Melanie Diaz and Daniely Rios. All three Brazilian women were in tandem and it carried them to a highly intense final.
When facing the United States in the final, Takahashi again was at the centre of attention. She channeled her semi-final form by defeating Crystal Wang (12-10, 8-11, 11-9, 11-6) and, accounting for Wu Yue in fine fashion, when she prevented a strong comeback from her opponent (12-10, 11-9, 8-11, 7-11, 11-6). Sadly, these two wins for Takahashi proved to be in vain, as Yamada lost out by the very narrowest of margins to Wang.
A difficult loss to digest, the Brazilians must however take note of increasing positives that have come out of this past week. The immense talent on show at the Pan American Championships is a testament to prowess of the South American country’s athletes. There are not a lot of teams which can produce both gold and silver medals when some of their seasoned picks are missing.
With the singles events starting today, Brazil has a lot to look forward to. Both men’s and women’s team’s athletes will want to repeat their powerful displays, and given what we have seen till now, it would not be a surprise to see another Brazil-filled knockout stage over the weekend.