Ryu Seung-min remembers Ian Lariba for having a cheery air about her.
The Korean Olympic champion hopes his meet-up with Lariba gave the Filipina table-tennis great ample reason to flash her familiar smile.
Ryu visited Lariba at St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig city on Monday, offering words of encouragement and $3,000 worth of financial assistance in her battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
“I’m here to support Lariba in her fight against her ailment. I couldn’t believe she’s sick. She smiled all the time,’’ said Ryu, who won table-tennis gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The money, donated by Korea's national table-tennis team, will be used for Lariba's bone-marrow operation on Saturday.
Ryu met Lariba during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics with Lariba’s coach, Kwon Mi Sook.
“I believe she will come back soon and play with us,’’ said Ryu, currently Korea's representative to the International Olympic Committee.
Ting Ledesma, president of the Philippine Table Tennis Federation, the sport's national governing body, said that the International Table Tennis Federation has also committed $20,000 to help Lariba.
“This news is already known all over the world with table tennis enthusiasts from other countries helping her,’’ Ledesma said. “Ryu’s visit will boost Yanyan’s confidence for this Saturday’s bone marrow transplant.”
Ryu also gave out brand-new table tennis balls to the federation worth roughly $3,000 and gave Lariba a South Korea jersey signed by members of the Korean national team.
Ryu said the Korean team is open to holding a fundraiser, possibly an exhibition match against top Filipino table tennis players.
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