With the close of UAAP Season 77 and as the school year slowly winds down, DLSU Lady Paddler Ian Lariba’s year is only getting better. Aside from being included in the Philippines’ roster for the table tennis tournament of the Southeast Asian Games, Lariba was recently cited as the UAAP Athlete of the Year, along with ADMU’s Hannah Dato and FEU’s Janelle Mae Frayna.
The recently concluded UAAP tourney has been generally fruitful for DLSU despite losing the UAAP General Championship (GC) to UST by the slimmest of margins. La Salle won more than a handful of championships and had several first-runner up finishes but ended up a few points short of UST, failing to win their third consecutive GC. Lariba’s win however, was one of the bright spots for the school this season, and is something she hopes to build on for the coming season.
“When I received the award onstage, it was just a very humbling experience and I was really just grateful because it was something that I just did not do for myself but for the Lasallian community as well,” Lariba says.
A number of the recent recipients of the UAAP Athlete of the Year award are not just exemplary athletes at the collegiate level; these esteemed athletes have also represented the Philippines in international and prestigious tournaments outside of the country. DLSU’s Johan Aguilar, who won the award in 2012, and Lariba’s co-awardee Dato represented the Philippines in swimming events at the ASEAN University games and at the SEA Games. Frayna, the other UAAP Athlete of the Year awardee, is no stranger to international competitions as well as her success in chess tournaments abroad have helped her earn the rank International Master, one that she shares with DLSU’s Jodi Fronda.
Lariba, on her part, represented the Philippines at the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Table Tennis Team Championships held in Tokyo, Japan, where she, along with fellow Lady Paddler Jamaica Sy, won first place for Team Philippines in Division Four.
“It’s an honor as well as a privilege to be part of and also to be recognized with the other national players because I think the UAAP is the most prestigious intercollegiate event and you get to see as well how student athletes are being recognized for their efforts,” she proudly mentions.
More than just being successful on the court, Lariba prides herself on the fact that their program helps them balance their academic commitments with their duties on the table. Aside from the fact that they believe in the notion of student athletes, managing their academics well means that their eligibility in the UAAP will not be put into question, which means that their team can be complete come tournament time.
“We have to be students first before we can be athletes and make our responsibilities,” the Finance major explains. “And I think for our table tennis program, throughout the years, we always manage our time, especially if it’s close to finals week or midterms week. We ask permission from our coaches if we can have trainings or what but we’re happy that our coaches are very understanding and giving time for that matter because we really give importance to our studies and our academics because we believe after we graduate here, maybe it’s not permanent if we play table tennis and I think it’s still vital for us to always give priority to our studies.”
With the UAAP table tennis tournament more than six months away due to the shift in the league’s calendar, Lariba has ample time to focus on both her studies and in the SEA Games. In the long run, this will all help in her preparations for the tournament and yet despite all the accolades and opportunities that have been coming her way this early into the year, she understands that the road to back-to-back championships won’t be easy.
“I just wanted to have it [the award] as something for me to motivate myself and to also remind me to humble myself [since the award is] just a symbol of all the hardships as well as all the people who helped me like the OSD, the sports program, our coaches, managers,” she says. “It’s more of an inspiration [for me to get better].”