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Puerto Rico's Adriana Diaz among world's top 20 in ping pong

PING PONG | 04 de febrero de 2020

San Juan, Feb 4 (efe-epa).- In a sport where Asians reign supreme, for the first time in her short yet successful table tennis career Puerto Rico's Adriana Diaz has broken into the Top 20 of the world's adult ping pong players.

The latest rankings update by the International Table Tennis Federation puts Diaz at No. 20 in the world, one slot higher than her previous ranking, thus making her not only a reference figure for the Caribbean island but also for Latin America by breaking into the top tier of a sport where Asians have traditionally dominated.

Hailing from the municipality of Utuado, Diaz now finds herself in the upper competitive echelon in a sport that until recently was relatively unknown in Puerto Rico. In fact, she had to go to the continental United States to train to improve her skills.

Diaz's sister Melanie, also a table tennis athlete, is currently ranked No. 63 on the ITTF world ranking list.

The news of her elevation to the 20th slot has bolstered Diaz's confidence, and she will defend her title at the Pan American Cup to be held from Feb. 7-9 at the Mario Morales Coliseum in Guaynabo, a municipality near the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan.

The first and second place winners at the competition will secure for themselves berths at the World Women's Cup, to be held on Oct. 23-25 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Diaz's rise to No. 20 is an important leap in her career, and it was just months ago in an interview with EFE that she said she never could have imagined getting to No. 22 - at that time - in the ITTF rankings.

"It's my best ranking. I never would have imagined it," said the young ping pong player in early December about getting to 22nd place during the final few months of preparation and training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, for which she has qualified thanks to the fact that she won first place in the sport at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima.

Diaz emphasized at the time that she hoped by now to have moved up to 20th, a target that she said was realistic and which she has made a reality.

"But from here, within two years, my dream is to be in the 'Top 10,'" she said after noting that no Puerto Rican player has ever achieved that and, probably, no Latina either.

Diaz's achievement is all the more impressive in that her chosen sport has no great following or history in Puerto Rico or in the region as a whole, its epicenter being thousands of miles away in China, where it is wildly popular and played by millions.

But Diaz has gotten into the top tier by training practically alone except for her sister Melanie in Utuado, a mountainous municipality in Puerto Rico's interior where she has had the help of her father and trainer, Bladimir Diaz, who has been overseeing his daughters' athletic progress.

Adriana's move upwards in her sport put her at the top of Teen Vogue magazine's list of the 21 most inspiring and influential women younger than age 21.

"If you want to reach a goal, you have to work for it, since you can't achieve it alone. Also, you can't lose hope. You have to work, to fight and to trust in yourself, it doesn't matter how," Adriana said at the time regarding her philosophy for getting to the top and staying there.

The hopes of her fellow Puerto Ricans are now focused on Tokyo 2020, where Diaz will be in the running for an Olympic medal, although she has said that a person needs to be patient and get all the experience they can.

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