Doubles Win Sparks Celebrations, First Ever Medal for Puerto Rico - Butterfly Table Tennis
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Melanie Diaz

Doubles Win Sparks Celebrations, First Ever Medal for Puerto Rico

Doubles Win Sparks Celebrations, First Ever Medal for Puerto Rico
2015 Pan American Games
Courtesy of ITTF

July 20, 2015 – Success for Carelyn Cordero and Melanie Diaz, against Argentina’s Camila Arguelles and Agustina Iwasa, on the early evening of Monday July 20th in the Atos Arena in Markham, Toronto signaled unbridled celebrations for Puerto Rico.

It meant the Caribbean island was assured of its first ever medal in the table tennis events at the Pan American Games; the country that has made phenomenal strides in the past decade had beaten Argentina, the no.8 seeds, by three matches to nil at the quarter-stage of the Women’s Team event.

Melanie Diaz the pivotal player; she gave Puerto Rico, the no.4 seeds, the perfect start by beating Camila Arguelles in three straight games (11-8, 11-9, 11-8), before Adriana Diaz recovered from a two games to nil deficit to overcome Ana Codina (6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5) and double the advantage.

The moment now firmly with Puerto Rico, Melanie Diaz returned to the fray to partner Carelyn Cordero to an impressive doubles success against Camila Arguelles and Agustina Iwasa (14-12, 11-7, 11-8) to secure the semi-final place.

At the Pan American Games, there are two bronze medals.

Nervous Before Match 
“I must admit that I was nervous before the match started”, said Bladimir Diaz, the Puerto Rican National Women’s Team coach. “We have a very young team, the average age is only 18 years; Argentina had a more experienced outfit but our girls were focused, they have slept well, eaten sensibly and they were thoroughly prepared.”

It was a very impressive performance with the win recorded by Adriana Diaz in the second match of the fixture swaying matters inexorably in favor of Puerto Rico.

“I decided to put Melanie on first against Camila and then Adriana against Ana”, explained Bladimir Diaz. “Melanie gave us the perfect start, then Adriana overcame Ana after losing the first two games.”

A special moment for Puerto Rico and it was a special moment for Bladimir Diaz.

“So happy, I have no words to describe how I feel”, he said with perhaps a tear of emotion in his eyes.

“We started with these players when they were little girls”, added Bladimir Diaz. “I never thought we’d ever win a medal at the Pan American Games, never; now all the hard work, everything has come together.”

Poignant Meeting 
Success for Puerto Rico by three matches to nil and on the day that diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba officially restored, the United States overcame Cuba by three matches to nil to book their place in the penultimate round.

Just as Melanie Diaz had given Puerto Rico the perfect start, so Zheng Jiaqi, a right-handed pen-holder who uses both sides of the racket, gave the United States the perfect start; she beat Lisi Castillo, the recently crowned Caribbean champion in three straight games (11-4, 11-4, 11-7).

Stayed Calm 
“I tried to stay calm, I focused on keeping the ball short and not let her play her strong forehand top spin”, said Zheng Jiaqi. “I’d never played her before but I’d watched her play, so I had a good idea of her style.”

Success for Zheng Jiaqi was followed by success for Wu Yue against Idalys Lovet (11-4, 11-3, 11-5) with Lily Zhang entering the arena to partner Wu Yue to doubles success against Lisi Castillo and Leisy Jimenez (11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 11-3).

Tossed a Coin 
Notably Dhoru Gheorghe, the United States Coach did not select Lily Zhang, the only member of the outfit who had competed in 2011 Pan American Games in the opening two singles encounters; nor did he field Zheng Jiaqi in the doubles, the pen hold grip being regarded by many as the better grip for short play and ideal for doubles.

“I just tossed a coin”, smiled Dhoru Gheorhge. “For the doubles I want to keep my options open.”

Believe that and you’ll believe Mount Everest is made of ice cream.

Maybe he was well aware that the Cubans are strong in counter top spin play but not in short play? Both Zheng Jiaqi and Wu Yue are very adroit in that area of play.

Brazilians Imperious 
Comprehensive wins for both Puerto Rico and the United States; it was very much the same for Brazil and Canada.

Brazil, the top seeds, accounted for Colombia, the no.5 seeds, by three matches to nil.

Gui Lin set the favorites in the road to victory by beating Lady Ruano (11-6, 11-5, 11-3), before Caroline Kumahara overcame Paula Medina (12-10, 11-7, 11-6) to set the scene for Gui Lin and Ligia Silva to seal victory, They accounted for Lady Ruano and Angie Umbacia in three straight games (11-7, 11-9, 11-6).

Anqi Luo 
Meanwhile, for Canada, the no.3 seeds, it was only marginally more difficult against Chile, the no.6 seeds; they won by three matches to one with Anqi Luo giving the host nation the perfect start by beating Katherine Low in a tense five games contest (13-15, 12-10, 9-11, 11-4, 11-9).

“Playing first is always difficult and I felt under pressure; I was nervous but I felt that if I could win we were 90 percent certain of winning the match”, said Anqi Luo.

Received Service Well 
“Katherine received service well, I tried to focus on playing a safe first top spin and then attack strongly; I felt confident in the rallies.”

Success for Anqi Luo, Canada increased the advantage with Zhang Mo beating Paulina Vega (11-9, 11-6, 11-3), before Chile responded to secure the doubles thanks to the efforts of Natalia Castellano and Paulina Vega. They accounted for Alicia Cote and Anqi Luo (11-2, 11-5, 11-8).

A fine effort from the Chilean duo but it was not to spark a recovery. Zhang Mo beat Natalia Castellano in three straight games to bring matters to a close (12-10, 11-7, 11-2).

At the semi-final stage Brazil meets Puerto Rico, the United States opposes Canada.

Quotes of the Day
2015 Pan American Games: Quotes of the Day – Monday 20th July

Day Two: First stage of proceedings in Men’s Team and Women’s Team events concludes, medalists decided – Photos by Thorsten Gohl

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