Olympic champion offers message of hope to Puerto Ricans

San Juan (Puerto Rico): Puerto Rico star Monica Puig, the surprise winner of the Rio Olympics women’s singles tennis tournament, sent a message of hope to residents of the Caribbean island who are suffering the consequences of the severe economic crisis.

Puig traveled to her birthplace to play an exhibition match in here on Thursday against Russia’s Maria Sharapova, who was suspended from the WTA Tour earlier this year after testing positive for a recently banned heart medication but has been cleared to return to the circuit in 2017, reports Efe news agency.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way. With a positive attitude, we can move forward,” Puerto Rico’s first and only Olympic gold medalist said in a press conference.

Puig said she was aware of the crisis facing the island, which has been in recession for a decade and is seeking to restructure more than $60 billion in public debt, but urged people to continue to persevere.

“Every day you can find some enjoyment despite the problems,” said Puig, who makes infrequent trips to the island because of her travels on the WTA Tour.

In terms of her tennis, the 32-ranked Puig said her exhibition match against Sharapova was a good chance to fine-tune her game ahead of the Australian Open, a major event that gets under way on January 16.

“The match was perfect for my preparations, especially because I was playing against a five-time Grand Slam winner,” the Puerto Rican said.

Sharapova, who joined Puig at the press conference, said she was happy to make her first-ever visit to Puerto Rico even though she did not have enough time on this occasion to visit San Juan properly.

“But I hope to come back with more time to enjoy the weather, the food and the dancing,” the Russian star said.