On Tuesday, two Puerto Rican sisters brought home the gold medal in Lima for their doubles victory in the Pan American Games of tenis de mesa. Oh, you didn’t hear about that? Well, hailed as the Serena and Venus Williams of table tennis, two young boricuas Adriana and Melanie Diaz are going to put table tennis on your radar.
Eighteen-year-old Adriana and her 23-year-old big sister Melanie come from a family full of table tennis aficionados. Their parents Bladimir and Marangely both have played competitively in the past, as well as two other Diaz sisters. Adriana, though, is the undisputed star; at the age of 15, she became the first ever Puerto Rican female table tennis player to qualify for the Olympic games. She’s currently one of the top 50 best players in the world. Having just won the gold in singles at the Pan American games, she is now set to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. (Melanie is also a formidable opponent in her own right, having made her way to the semifinals of the tournament.)
Adriana gushed to ESPN earlier this year about how much she loves the sport. “I tried to play with dolls — but, I’ve always been a sporty girl. I knew that table tennis was for me. It was fun, and I was very good at it.” She shared that she has seen the sport gaining popularity on the island, perhaps due to the competitive success of her family. Daddy Yankee even has taken notice of the Diaz sisters’ game, helping to sponsor them so that they could travel and compete last fall in Switzerland and Austria.
The Washington Post described a super supportive fan base cheering them on at the Pan American Games this week, with Puerto Rican flags, celebratory chants, and reggaeton in tow. Melanie told the Post, “We never thought that table tennis would have this boom.” Adriana has spoken in the past of how motivating is to have support from the stands. As for being likened to the Williams sisters, the two Diaz girls are totally humbled. “We’ve often been compared, like the two sisters who are growing up together for the sport that they always worked and dreamed of,” Adriana told the Post. “That feels amazing. Serena is a legend, and so is Venus. Any comparison to them makes me proud.”