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Puerto Rico represented region well at World Team TT – Moo Young

Published:Wednesday | October 12, 2022 | 12:10 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz playing her now-famous backhand.
Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz playing her now-famous backhand.

THE CARIBBEAN was well represented by Puerto Rico at the just-concluded World Team Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu, China. That’s the considered view of Peter Moo Young, a former Jamaica Table Tennis Association president. Moo Young was...

THE CARIBBEAN was well represented by Puerto Rico at the just-concluded World Team Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu, China.

That’s the considered view of Peter Moo Young, a former Jamaica Table Tennis Association president. Moo Young was particularly impressed with the backhand play of Puerto Rico’s world number 11, Adriana Diaz.

Diaz, who turns 22 on October 31, carried her team into the knockout round. The Puerto Ricans beat Malaysia and the USA 3-2, and toppled Canada 3-0 to finish second in their qualifying group to eventual winners China, who beat them 3-0.

In the round of 16, Diaz beat newly minted European champion Nina Mittleham 3-2, when Puerto Rico met Germany but the Germans won 3-2 overall to advance.

The Puerto Rican men were well beaten by China, Slovenia and the USA but made their mark with a win over Malaysia. Tall youngster Angel Naranjo won a match against both the Americans and the Slovenians to make the score respectable at 1-3 in both encounters.

With special reference to Diaz and the island’s top male player, world number 69 Brian Afanador, Moo Young was generous.

“Puerto Rico did not do the region badly at all. Their two world-class players played up to the occasion. I saw Brian Afanador on the men’s side giving a good account of himself. He wasn’t embarrassed and Daniel Gonzales didn’t do badly either and Naranja, they all did well and on the women’s side, Adrianna Diaz actually gave the Chinese some level of discomfort.”

“What more could you ask?”

HIGH LEVEL

Diaz, who has trained and played in China, was number three in the world as a junior. With this in mind, Moo Young added, “this is a girl, just barely in her 20s and she’s been playing at a high level for quite some time now, from when she was a little kid and I think she did the region proud.”

Female players often spar with their opponents with fast backhand topspins down the middle of the table. Diaz is different.

“She doesn’t get caught in these useless back and forth of the ball. She’s trying to snap these backhands, world-class backhand,” said the two-time Jamaica men’s singles champion.

In addition to her win over Mittleham, 2021 Pan-Am gold medal winner Diaz held her own against China’s world champion Wang Manyu.

Moo Young was full of praise for Chengdu for creating a sterile ‘bubble’ to protect the players, coaches and officials from the ravages of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“The truth is,” he stated, “that Chengdu is in the middle of a COVID crisis. We didn’t even know the tournament was going to take place. It looked in doubt to me because Chengdu was hit by COVID. You have to give credit to the organisers.”

Puerto Rico were the only Caribbean team in Chengdu.