Mel Ann Shane Lauron, Region VII student journalist
Accurate shots. Blistering topspins. Unpredictable smashes.
These strategic game ploys were the highlights of the elementary strikers of Region VII to snatch the golden spot against Davao Region in the team event of table tennis held earlier this noon at Philippine Science High School, San Ildefonso, Ilocos Sur, during the Palarong Pambansa 2018.
Leaving no patch for their opponents to dominate, the ravaging table tennis players of Central Visayas exhibited their most astounding performances as they pulled off an impressive 3-0 win each round.
“What they have showed in this match was beyond amazing. These children train more than five hours every day so they really deserve the win!” coach Mary Flor Quirante said.
Ten-year-old Jebb Jerwin Datahan from Bohol Wisdom School starred in the event after beating his rival in less than five minutes with a remarkably huge deficit every set.
“It was easy for me to beat my opponent because he was obviously feeling nervous and I even told him to just relax during the game!” Datahan expressed enthusiastically. “You really just have to relax and enjoy the game to win. Just have fun and win,” the bronze medalist in the Uni Orient Travel Inc. held at Manila two weeks ago shared.
With his experience in last year’s Palaro, where he won gold in the doubles with former partner Eric Arbasto, the fourth grader proved his supremacy by starting off a 4-0 blitz within a minute in the first set. His opponent never got close to the lead as Datahan kept booming his flashy shots to dump Davao Region’s paddler in a destructive 11-2 advantage.
Datahan continued his strategic ploys at the second blow which then again ended the set by a demolition, 7-0, after deploying his tricky shots to his confused foe, 11-4.
The desperate tennis player of Davao tried to grab the lead and ignited a 5-5 deadlock but Datahan immediately pushed his engine further to complete his 3-0 win with backhands, 11-6.
“It has only been three years since my son Jebb started playing table tennis but now he plays like a super star! Looking back, I was still teaching him how to play it but now he has become better than me,” the proud father Antonio said.
Meanwhile, sixth grader Daniel Butar from Cabancalan 2 Elementary School also showcased his accurate topspins that served as his key to pound the Davao athlete with 3-0.
“I just did my best until the end of the game. We all won because we did our best,” Butar said.
The odds were at first in Davao smasher’s favor as he led with the scores of 4-1, 7-4 and 8-5 over Butal. But the determined 12-year-old of Region VII did not choose to give up and figured out his opponent’s tactics to lock the score at 9-apiece and finish off the first set, 11-9.
Butar resumed playing cleverly and took advantage of his rival’s errors to snatch the second and third set, 11-5, 11-8.
On the other hand, the team’s duo Andrie Caballes, 11, and John Niño Gopol, 13, put the audience to chills and thrills as they played so close against Davao’s Lucernas brothers, John Kim and Sheim Kim, with 13-11 at the first set. The second was not a challenge for the two spinners after closing an easy 11-2. The third set, however, was a see-saw ride for both teams as it activated numerous deadlocks, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12 until 17-17. With the phenomenal hamstring between the teams, the Region VII fighters propelled their game play further to finally finish the match, 19-11.
“My athletes were all tired from the game they played just recently. If they only had proper rest before the game, we might have had a big chance to win against Region VII,” coach Edwin Magallanes uttered.
Central Visayas only placed third in the team event in last year’s Palaro but this time, the Region VII fighters finally seized the championship title.
“We’re very happy because out of all the regions in the Philippines, we won!” Gapol exclaimed. “We’re very proud that we grabbed the gold representing Region VII even if we’re first-timers except Jebb,” he added.