The Philippine table-tennis team preparing for the Southeast Asian Games in August isn't taking the news of a seriously ill teammate well, and one official is concerned that the player's condition has affected the squad's performance.
Ian Lariba, the first Filipina table tennis player to compete in the Olympics, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and will not participate in the Kuala Lumpur Games.
Ting Ledesma, president of the Philippine Table Tennis Federation, the sport's national governing body, said Lariba's condition is weighing heavily on the players.
"Iyong team medyo hindi pa nakaka-recover. Siyempre kaming mga coaches and NSA we talk to them na huwag susuko, tuloy ang laban," he said during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum held in Pasay City on Tuesday.
"Kasi ang naiisip nila ngayon is gusto nilang matulungan si Yan Yan (Lariba)."
The national team is lined up for two competitions before it flies to Malaysia, and Ledesma wants his players to go into tournaments prepared. "Pinipilit pa rin namin silang mag-focus. Hopefully, maka-recover sila," he said.
Ledesma welcomed one suggestion to take Lariba with the team to Kuala Lumpur, not as a competitor but as a cheerleader. He said that if Lariba gets better, the federation would certainly ask her to be with her teammates, even just on the sidelines.
"Maganda iyan kung kaya nyang pumunta . . . kahit pumunta lang siya malaking bagay na sa team," he said.
Lariba has already undergone chemotherapy to combat the cancer cells in her body. "So far so good naman daw siya, nakakapagsalita naman daw siya, according to her mom," said Ledesma. "Pero mahina pa 'yung immune system kaya di sya pwedeng bisitahin basta basta."
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