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2024 Summer Olympics

Sam Catantan prepares for Olympic debut with intensive Italy training camp


Sam Catantan, the first Filipino fencer to qualify for the Olympics in 32 years, is eagerly anticipating the Paris Games in July.

Catantan, a 22-year-old fencing scholar at Penn State University, is nearing the final phase of her training.

She will attend a camp in Italy from June 12 to 29 before heading to France to finalize her preparations, and will check into the Athletes Village on July 25.

Catantan earned her Olympic spot by winning gold at the Asian and Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament last April. She will compete in the direct elimination Round-of-64 on July 28, with hopes of advancing further.

In the Round-of-32, Catantan may face a formidable opponent, likely the No. 1 fencer in women’s foil – Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Lee Kiefer of the United States – or the second-ranked fencer.

“Kahit saan kami pumwesto dito, malakas ang makakalaban namin,” said Catantan’s long-time coach, Amat Canlas, in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

“If we get to the Round-of-32 as the No. 32 then we will meet the No. 1 player,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Catantan remains hopeful. She is the first Filipino fencer to compete in the Olympics since Percy Alger in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and Walter Torres, now a commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission, in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Fully recovered from an ACL injury sustained during the 2023 SEA Games in Cambodia, Catantan feels determined to make the most of her Olympic journey.

“Nothing is impossible,” she said at the weekly forum, sponsored by San Miguel Corporation, the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Olympic Committee, Smart/PLDT, MILO, and the 24/7 sports app ArenaPlus.

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Catantan is also preparing for a potential match against Maxine Esteban, her former teammate who qualified for the Paris Olympics representing Ivory Coast.

“It’s an external factor that we don’t have any control of,” said Catantan, who will spend the next couple of weeks practicing with members of the Philippine men’s team.

“Itatapat ko na siya sa magagaling na lalaki natin hanggang umalis kami for Italy. Ibang training program naman ‘yun,” said Canlas.

In Venice, Catantan will have the rare opportunity to train with the Italian team.

“We were invited, and ang maganda is that sagot ng Penn State lahat. His Italian coach at Penn State will be with Sam. Then pagdating niya sa France, ako na ang kasama niya,” said Canlas.

Regarding a potential match with Esteban, Canlas expressed a preference for different opponents.

“Mas gusto namin kung ibang country na lang ang makalaban. Matagal na sila mag-teammate ni Maxine. But of course, kung ‘yun ang nasa bracket then paghahandaan namin,” he said.

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