Richard Gonzales of the Philippines injured his ankle during the group match against Malaysia’s Mohd Shakirin Ibrahim at the SEA Games. Despite the injury, he won that match and went on to qualify for the semi-finals.
NAYPYITAW: Old-timer Richard Gonzales of the Philippines continues to show that age is just a number and what matters most is the heart of a champion.
Yesterday, the 42-year-old twisted his ankle but showed lots of courage to reach the semi-finals of the men’s singles table tennis at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium C.
The 40-year-old Gonzales had locked horns with Malaysia’s Mohd Shakirin Ibrahim in the decider of his opening D match when an effort to lunge for the ball saw him hurting his ankle and grimacing in pain on the floor.
After a brief 10-minute break, he got back on his feet and hobbled his way to beat the reigning national champion Shakirin 3-2 (8-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7, 13-11) to the roaring applause of spectators. And he did not stop there.
He went on to play in another group match against Thailand’s Chaisit Chaitat and, despite limping around, he scored a sensational 3-1 (2-11, 11-7, 14-12, 11-8) win.
Only the group champions make it to the semi-finals on Saturday.
“I will not stop at anything in trying to win honours for my motherland ... I will not stop at anything,” said Gonzales, while his ankle was being strapped with ice to ease the swelling.
“I felt the pain but I just ignored it. Now, I am the happiest man here. Nothing can beat this feeling.”
Gonzales, who has played in every SEA Games since the 1995 edition in Chiang Mai 18 years ago, said that having to endure hardships in his country has made him stronger.
“It is tough back home ... life is just hard. And I guess, performances like this give the people back home something to cheer about,” said the father of one.
“All this however, does not come easy for me. Whether one is old or young, one must be disciplined and dedicated in training and most of all, one must have the heart to push oneself no matter how hard it seems.”
Now that he has qualified for the semi-finals, Gonzales is determined to equal his best performance, which he pulled off at the 2005 Manila SEA Games.
“I won my first SEA Games silver at the Manila Games. That was my best achievement. It would be great to do the same here. I will not let this ankle problem stand in my way,” he said with a wink.
With Singapore parading their China imports Clarence Chey Zheyu and Zhan Jian, it will be tough for Gonzales to win his first ever gold medal but one can bet their money on the Filipino giving his opponents a heck of a ride.