by Kabir Nagpal
Triple gold medallist at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games and a guaranteed ticket for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, for Adriana Diaz – the young lady with big ambitions, hailing from Utuado in the centre of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico – it has been an impressive 12 months across women’s singles, doubles and team events… but her remarkable journey to stardom started much earlier into her teenage years.
From the her debut on the grand stage at the 2014 World Championships, Diaz has been within touching distance of silverware – no matter the event. She won the women’s singles bronze medal at the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games in Xalapa, as well as the silver with elder sister Melanie in the women’s doubles. The achievements combined well with the two gold medals she secured for her team and in the mixed doubles with Brian Afanador at the same tournament!
Achieving the no.3 spot in August on this year’s under 21 world ranking, her journey hit an early peak in 2016, when she succeeded at the Pan American Junior Championships in Burnaby and in the women’s singles event at the United States Open in Las Vegas.
It was a statement to the world that the Latin American athlete was a high quality act.
Currently in October 2019, ranked no.27 on the women’s list and no.15 on the under 21 women’s order, Diaz has consistently achieved. The Universal 2019 ITTF-Pan Am Cup in Guaynabo yielded yet another gold medal, shortly after she won the under 21 women’s singles title at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open at Guadalajara.
The results have made her the highest ranked female player from Latin America at the age of 19; however, there are always disappointments. At the recent 2019 Latin America Team Qualification tournament for places in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, having beaten Brazil in the final at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games; facing the same trio of Bruna Takahashi, Caroline Kumahara and Jessica Yamada, they experienced a 3-0 defeat.
It may sound like a setback for the young Puerto Rican but remember she had just returned from the Uncle Pop Women’s World Cup and was no doubt jet-lagged; there is plenty to be optimistic about in the years ahead.
Teen (Vogue) Sensation heading to Tokyo
The year has clearly brought the Puerto Rican to the attention of the social media world, she is known to be very popular across Instagram and Twitter. Her inclusion in the Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 list is a direct combination of her on court performances and off-the-table influence.
As the first female from her country to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio 2016, her targets have become multi-dimensional – with the advancement of her female colleagues through sport the primary factor.
“My biggest challenge has been placing myself among the top 30 women table tennis players in the world. Because coming from a country where table tennis isn’t a traditional sport, it becomes a greater challenge to achieve a good ranking and maintain it. If you want to achieve a goal, you have to work for it. It’s not going to happen by itself. You can’t leave it to luck. You have to work, fight, and trust yourself, no matter what.” Adriana Diaz
Confidence about the importance of determination towards your goals is the main difference seen in the athletes coming through at this stage. Diaz has made up her mind about competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and could be a worthy inclusion for her country’s hopes of a podium finish.