Jann Mari Nayre split his first two matches, and thus put himself in a must-win situation in the table tennis competition of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) at the Technopolis in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The 18-year-old jumpstarted his campaign with a hard-earned win over Nicolas Burgos of Chile, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8, to make a statement in the group stages of the men’s singles preliminaries.
But he later lost in straight sets to Austria's Maciej Kolodziejczyk, 9-11, 8-11, 1-11, 6-11 in Group B of the men's singles.
"I'm not losing hope," said Nayre, the first Filipino paddler to qualify to the YOG. "Anything is possible. I'll just show up at my best."
Ranged against the 16-year-old Burgos, Nayre attacked the Chilean's weak back hand and stay focused the rest of the way after giving up an action-packed exchange in the second set.
A right-hander, Nayre struggled completely against Kolodziejczyk, who spent most of the match pouncing on the errors of the Filipino table tennis ace.
"I haven’t met them before in any of the tournaments that I participated in," said Nayre, a student at San Beda University who also represented the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games last year in Kuala Lumpur and the Asian Games earlier this year in Jakarta.
Up next for Nayre is Kanak Jha of the United States, a Rio Olympian who is the top paddler in the Under-18 world circuit. The 18-year-old Jha is the toughest possible competitor that top favorite and senior world No. 8 Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan can face in the medal round.
"It gets tougher as we move into the succeeding rounds," said Nayre. "I'll just try the best I can not to get eliminated early."
Apart from Nayre, Fil-Norwegian Christian Tio will start his medal bid in kiteboarding on Tuesday, a new discipline under sailing that will be held at the Club Nautico San Isidro.
Wednesday in Buenos Aires figures to be the busiest for the Philippines, with fencer Lawrence Everett Tan, golfers Yuka Saso and Carl Jano Corpus and Filipino-American swimmer Nicole Oliva set to begin their campaigns.
Saso, the Asian Games double-gold medalist, is entered in the women's individual stroke play while Corpus will represent the country in the men's side for three rounds at the Hurlingham Club.
Tan will compete in the men's foil while Oliva, a bronze medalist in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, will make her debut in the women's 100m freestyle. Oliva will also swim in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events.
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