At age 44, Richard Gonzales may be the oldest table tennis player in this 28th SEA Games competition. Despite his age, he is quick on his feet and has the strong mental prowess which allows him to outwit other paddlers who are merely half his age. We witnessed this when he put up a strong fight in the Men's Singles event, which saw his first silver medal since the 2005 SEA Games in Manila, conceding defeat only to Singapore's Gao Ning.
Sharing with the media on his experience at the 28th SEA games, Gonzales said that he was very happy and found it a challenge to be able to play against top ranked international players who were much younger than him. This is partly due to him lacking much international experience as he trains mainly within Manila with only 1-2 international games annually, hence this SEA Games is a very good experience for him.
Known as the "comeback kid" for his dark horse comebacks in the games, he described his playing style as 'staying cool under pressure'. He is also extremely proud to be representing his nation, as he is serving as an Army reserve under the Philippines Sports Commission, hence, to him, playing in international competitions is like fighting a "war" for his nation.
Gonzales started off playing table tennis in the streets with a hard bat, under the encouragement of his father. When he first started at age 13, money was his motivation. However, he soon grew to love the game and wanted to represent his country in this sport. At age 29, he won the try-outs for the national team - and it is only then when he switched over to a regular International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) approved bat. And that was when his life started revolving around table tennis. He trains from Monday to Friday, 3 hours each in the morning and afternoon, and has been in the national team for over 20 years.
When asked on his future plans, Gonzales hopes to continue playing for his national team for as long as he can, though he hopes to expand his current private coaching work with children so he would be able to coach the national team when he retires. Despite the fielding of other veteran players such as Rodel Valle, his team manager shared that the Philippines is still serious in developing its young talents with the fielding of younger players such as Rodney Jacolo for the SEA Games, and also the creation of grassroots platforms such as Batang Pinoy which grooms budding athletes for the YOG and beyond.
Gonzales continues in the table tennis competition in the Men's team event, and we wish him all the best in his events.
This author of this article is a volunteer content producer with Team Nila. For more content produced by Team Nila, please head to the 28th SEA Games Social Wall.
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