by Ian Marshall, Editor
The outcome was not as the 3,000 massed ranks of Puerto Rican supporters may have wished but no-one could have anything but respect and pride for Brian Afanador; the standing ovation he achieved in defeat underlined the supreme effort made. Equally, the performance of Marcelo Aguirre was respected.
Quite simply the locals had enjoyed a superb sporting occasion.
Made better start
Brian Afanador was the quicker out of the blocks, after securing the opening game, in the second he held a 10-9 lead; Eladio Afanador, father and coach sitting courtside called “time out”; a prudent move, son won the next point, the hall erupted.
Exciting rallies, Brian Afanador in true European style excelling in counter top spin rallies, thrilled the faithful; the level of play rising, Marcelo Aguirre subtly changing his service, adept close to the table, moved ahead 4-2 in the third game, the stage at which there was a short break, a wire from the high above catenary coming lose.
Rapid repairs, it was back to action and intense action, at 8-all it was parity; Marcelo Aguirre elected for “time out”, initially the break worked, he won the next two points but then promptly lost the next two, back level at 10-all.
Tension, game points saved and spurned before a return from Marcelo Aguirre clipped the edge of the table, a feint edge, unreturnable, the Paraguayan’s name was on the scoreboard. It is by such narrow margins sporting contests are determined; one can only wonder what the outcome may have been if the return had been a millimetre wider.
Immediately Brian Afanador responded, in the fourth game he went ahead 9-6 and 10-9 but was not able to capitalise; the contest was in the balance, there was a new found confidence in the heart of Marcelo Aguirre who, despite winning the crucial third game, had showed moments of hesitancy.
In the fifth, Marcelo Aguirre held the advantage from the start; at 10-7 he held three game points, Brian Afanador saved two but he could not save a third, for the first time Marcelo Aguirre led.
Motivated, the crowd supporting his every move, Brian Afanador secured the sixth game, a decider beckoned.
At the change of ends in the seventh he led 5-4, he extended the lead to 6-4 but then lost the next five points; at 10-8 Marcelo Aguirre held two match points, the first was saved, not the second.
Brian Afanador stood dumbstruck, the crowd for a split second in silence; then warm applause, Marcelo Aguirre the winner, Brian Afanador the hero, the Caribbean island to a man, woman and child appreciative of his efforts, rightly so.
He had given heart and soul, most importantly he had behaved impeccably; the sport of table tennis was the winner.