Filipino-Ivorian fencer Maxine Esteban expressed her anticipation for the day when no national athlete aspiring to bring honor to their country would need to pursue their dreams elsewhere.
“I hope I will be the last,” stated the highest-ranked Philippine-born fencer globally, who has finally disclosed the circumstances that prompted her to switch allegiance to Cote d’Ivoire.
“Napakasakit po. Sobra akong nabastos,” shared Esteban with Power and Play over the weekend.
“My prayer and hope are that whatever happened to me would never happen to any Filipino athlete. What [my federation] did to me was extremely hurtful, unfair, and disrespectful.”
Esteban revealed that issues began arising when she suffered an injury while representing the Philippines in the World Championship in Egypt last July.
The eight-time national champion and the sole Filipino fencer World Cup multi-medalist tore her ACL, requiring a six-month rehabilitation program. Upon learning the extent of her injury, Esteban promptly wrote to the Philippine Fencing Association (PFA), requesting excusal from the national and international events of the qualifiers.
Esteban claimed that the PFA responded and excused her.
“In other countries, you don’t need to do that,” Esteban explained. “You are excused, and your ranking stays while you recover because that is the least they can do to show their appreciation for your service and sacrifices.”
To her surprise, fellow fencers informed her that she was no longer part of the team when the list of national athletes was posted. Esteban asserted that the PFA did not even inform her of the decision.
The world No. 39 then sought an audience with the PFA board to clarify the situation, attaching the federation’s response to her excuse letter, but to no avail.
Esteban refuted claims of leaving the country due to lucrative offers from abroad, stating, “First of all, I did not turn my back on my country. I turned my back on my federation because it turned its back on me first.”
Despite receiving naturalization offers from other countries, Esteban chose Ivory Coast due to her family’s long-standing ties to the country. She had also conducted clinics and donated fencing equipment to Ivory Coast when she was younger.
Esteban expressed that she no longer harbors regrets about how things turned out but hopes that by sharing her experience, it will bring about change in the way national federations operate, particularly those that arbitrarily change rules to suit their whims.