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Youngest Players on Duty but Major Contenders for Olympic Places: Adriana Diaz - Photo courtesy of ITTF

Youngest Players on Duty but Major Contenders for Olympic Places

Youngest Players on Duty but Major Contenders for Olympic Places
Courtesy of ITTF

Crucial to Latin American success at the 2015 ITTF World Cadet Challenge in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh last October, Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz and Bruna Takahashi are two of the leading names on duty at the forthcoming 2016 ITTF-Latin American Olympic Games Qualification Tournament.

Play starts in the Chilean capital city of Santiago on Friday April 1st.

Exceptional Young Players
Two exceptional young players have arrived on the scene in Latin America at the very same time; although it may cause the supporters of each camp some nervous moments when the two girls have to play each other, from the point of view of a neutral, the rivalry can only be good to keep each on the mettle.

Furthermore, it is a healthy rivalry; they are known to be the best of friends.

First Olympic Experience
Both were present at the recent Perfect World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur but compared with the other leading names on duty in the Women’s Singles event in Chile, they are the two names without Olympic experience.

Born in 2000, they are the youngest players on duty in Santiago. Adriana Diaz being just over two months younger than Bruna Takahashi has the distinction of being to top seed and the youngest player on duty in the whole competition.

I doubt that has ever happened before in any Olympic Games qualifying competition; could it be the first in any sport, the youngest, the top name? Bruna Takahashi is the no.5 seed.

Too Young
Both have simply been too young to compete in any prior Olympic Games or even in the Youth Olympic Games. Four years when the world gathered in London, although theoretically eligible, their selection was not realistic.

Meanwhile, for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, whatever their talents, they were too young to be eligible.

In Nanjing in order to compete players had to be born between Monday January 1, 1996 and Friday December 31,  1999.

Seeding
Sandwiched in between Adriana Diaz and Bruna Takahashi in the Chile order of merit are three players who have all competed in an Olympic Games.

Brazil’s Caroline Kumahara and Gui Lin are next in line to Adriana Diaz, being followed immediately by Mexico’s Yadira Silva.

Caroline Kumahara and Gui Lin both competed in London, while Caroline Kumahara was also in action at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

Most Experienced
Valuable experience but the most experienced of all is 30-year-old Yadira Silva, who alongside Colombia’s 26-year-old Paula Medina has competed in two Olympic Games; both were present in Beijing and in London.

Paula Medina is the no.7 seed in the Women’s Singles event, being one place behind the host nation’s Paulina Vega.

Heartbreak in Rio de Janeiro
The 32-year-old Chilean who will be desperate to avoid the heartache she suffered four years ago when the Latin American Olympic Qualification Tournament was staged in Rio de Janeiro.

In the vital contest that decided a place in the London 2012 Olympic Games; she was beaten by Venezuela’s Fabiola Ramos by the very narrowest of margins in the deciding seventh game, after holding one match point.

Fabiola Ramos claimed the vital place and was afforded the honor of carrying her country’s flag at the Opening Ceremony.

Youth Olympic Games
Meanwhile, the other players on duty with Olympic experience are Venezuela’s Gremlis Arvelo and Uruguay’s Maria Pia Lorenzotti; both competed in the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

Gremlis Arvelo is the no.8 seed, Maria Pia Lorenzotti is the no.13 seed; listed in between are Puerto Rico’s Melanie Diaz, Colombia’s Lady Ruano, Cuba’s Lisi Castillo and Argentina’s Ana Codina.

The Dominican Republic’s Eva Brito, Trinidad and Tobago’s Rheann Chung followed by Chile’s Katherine Low complete the top six games.

Youngest Ever
Six places are available and should Adriana Diaz and Bruna Takahashi cross the finishing line, will they be the youngest ever participants in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games?

The answer is in the negative; they have been usurped by Fiji’s Grace Rosi Yee, just under one week ago on Friday March 30th she gained the final qualification place at the 2013 ITTF-Oceania Olympic Games Qualification Tournament.

Born on 1st May 2002, she is 13 years old, when play starts in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday August 6th; she will be 14 years and 98 days old.

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