It was just three weeks ago when Maxine Esteban formally switched federations, no longer representing the Philippines in international competitions but is now carrying the flag of the Ivory Coast.
On Monday evening, the 22-year-old product of Ateneo de Manila University broke her silence on her switch of federation.
Though not fully disclosing the reason why she made a leap of faith, she bared that it was a decision she had to make for her own well-being.
“A lot of people have been asking about my decision. Yes, I am focused on achieving my Olympic dream. However, more than that dream, it was about self-respect.
“Sometimes, we must give ourselves enough respect to walk away from something that doesn’t value our worth. I want everyone to know that I did everything humanly possible to fulfill this long-time dream with the Filipino flag sewn on my uniform,” her statement read.
“But a series of unfortunate events—very little of which I had any control over—forced me to chase my dream in a distant, yet familiar land,” it continued.
Esteban has been representing the Philippines since 2018 or when she was just still 16 years old.
During her run with the Philippines, she has competed in the World Cup — both at the seniors and juniors levels, the Southeast Asian Games, and is also competing in the fencing circuit.
“I have fought long and hard for our country, encountering failures along the way. But I have also savored the thrill of winning for our flag. I remember being the only Filipino to win a medal in the Junior World Cup, back when I was also ranked 16th among juniors in the world, and also being the only Filipino to medal twice in the Senior Satellite World Cup,” she continued.
“I guess sometimes, life just takes you on a different path than you had initially planned.”
Grateful is Esteban to the Philippine Olympic Committee headed by president Bambol Tolentino for waving her three-year residency period after switching federations.
This move made her eligible to represent the African nation in the ongoing Olympic cycle.
“I will tell my story someday, that much I can guarantee. There is so much to learn from my experience, every heartache, and frustration I had to endure so that the things I went through never happen to any Filipino athlete again—especially those who dream of flying the Philippine flag on sports’ grandest stage,” she shared. “For now, I would like to express my utmost and sincere gratitude to Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino for holding the door open for this big dreamer to carve her own path toward a long-cherished goal.
“The honorable POC president’s request to the International Olympic Committee to waive the three-year residency so I can compete under the flag of my second home, Côte d’Ivoire, will go a long way in ensuring I get a decent and fair shot at competing in Paris in the 2024 Olympics,” she expressed.
“That is, after all, the only thing I had ever wanted: A FAIR CHANCE.”
After placing third in the individual women’s foil category of the African Championships in Cairo, Esteban is now ranked 46th in the world in the women’s foil category.
The next few months will be a grind for Esteban as she will continuously compete in tournaments.
And if she reaches the goal of making it to the biggest of stages, Esteban will continue to represent the Philippines — and the Ivory Coast.
“If, through my efforts, God rewards me with success, know that whatever triumphs I gain are a triumph of the Philippines as it is of the Ivory Coast. Because no matter what stage I will compete on, be it in a small tournament or—God willing—in the Olympics, the flag I represent only tells half the story. In my heart, I will always carry two inspirations: The land of my birth and the country I now call home.”