In a rematch of last year’s finals, it was the other Red Warrior who took it this time.
Michael Nicanor overshadowed his more famous teammate Nathaniel Perez in a gritty final battle, 15-11, to reclaim his men’s individual foil title, Thursday at the Ateneo Blue Eagle Gym.
The two Red Warriors had done well enough to remain on separate halves of the direct eliminations draw after placing third and fourth in the pooling round. It was University of the Philippines foilists Igi Cui and JC Turano who went 1-2 after this ranking phase by way of dominating their respective groups.
Both of the Recto-based fencers, however, slowly climbed up the ladder en route to the title showdown and dislodged the seeding advantage of the Maroons. The journey was even made easier when De La Salle University’s Towie Licono proved his mettle in his pet event after two years of wait, deposing top-seeded Cui in the quarterfinals, 15-8. On his part, Perez dominated the other La Sallian Joshua Rodriguez, 15-3, to meet the fellow former Red Page in the Final Four.
At the other half of the draw, UE senior Nicanor saw off the challenge of University of Santo Tomas’ Alexander Macaraig, 15-10, in the quarterfinals. Turano made sure there would be a Maroon in the semifinals after a drubbing of Jessie Suarez of UST, 13-3.
In the semifinals, Perez battled through adversity and pulled of a comeback against Licono. The national team mainstay echoed his teammate and men’s individual sabre gold medalist CJ Concepcion’s words when asked on how did the turnaround. “Inisip ko lang yung pinractice namin. Meron kasi kaming practice na pag lamang yung kalaban,” he shared. He pulled off one big attack to deny Licono of a finals berth, 15-14.
On the other piste, Nicanor also made a rally to prevent a repeat of the semifinals upset two years ago against Turano. The graduating Fighting Maroon stunned Perez in Season 76 to arrange a title showdown against Nicanor. This time, the Red Warrior reasserted his mastery over Turano and ultimately won the bout, 15-8.
At the finals podium, Perez took the early lead at 2-0, before Nicanor took three straight points to wrest the lead. After that attack for the third point, Nicanor suddenly went down with cramps. The UAAP Season 76 champion, however, shook it off and continued to pull through. The heart paid off for Nicanor, and Perez could not stop the former to claim his throne as men’s individual foil king.
Just when everyone thought that Nicanor was up and about, the newly-crowned champion again experienced cramps after the awarding. To this, his schoolmate Perez was all praises, knowing that Nicanor had given it his all. “Maganda talaga nilaro niya ngayon,” he exclaimed.