Ahead of SEA Games, local fencers set for July qualifiers

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2021 05:37 PM

Members of the Philippine fencing team (from left) CJ Concepcion, Nathaniel Perez, Noelito Jose Jr., coach Rolando Canlas, Samantha Catantan, and Nicole Cortey. File photo.

MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino fencers including top star Samantha Catantan will vie for their spots in the national team that will compete in the 2021 Southeast Asian Games through the national championships in July. 

The Philippine Fencing Association (PFA) will hold the National Fencing Championships at the Superdome on July 3-11, with the winners set to represent the Philippines in the SEA Games set for Hanoi, Vietnam in November. 

Catantan, who won bronze in both individual and team foil in the 2019 SEA Games, will fly home from the United States in time to make it to the national competition. However, it is unlikely that she can join the national team for the training camp being planned by coach Rolando "Amat" Canlas, given her schedule with Pennsylvania State University.

Canlas, who developed Catantan in University of the East's high school team before she joined the Nittany Lions, said plans for their SEA Games preparation will soon be discussed by the federation led by Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez.

"Tatapusin muna namin 'yung nine days ni Sir (Celso) Dayrit," said Canlas, referring to the passing of the former Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president who was also the chief of the Fencing Confederation of Asia at the time of his death.

Among Canlas' plans is to bring the national team to South Korea for a one-month training camp ahead of the SEA Games, which is scheduled for November 21 to December 2 in Hanoi.

"Originally, ang plan ko sana mag-training kami sa Korea for one month. 'Yun ang original plan ko, tapos, before the Southeast Asian Games, two weeks sana kami sa Hong Kong na mag-training again," he said.

South Korea is willing to host the Filipino fencing team, as Canlas has already initiated a discussion with his counterpart during the recent Asia-Oceania qualifying tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. 

However, Canlas admits they need a "Plan B" as the COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult for them to travel and hold camps in other countries. Both South Korea and Hong Kong require at least two weeks of quarantine upon arrival.

"'Yung nagpunta lang kami ng isang buwan, grabe na 'yung ginastos namin doon, isasama mo pa 'yung quarantine," he noted.

One alternative is to invite South Korean fencers to their "bubble" in Ormoc, rather than hold their camp abroad.

"Para may makalaban kami na malalakas. Siguro, mga 10-12 fencers 'yun. 'Yun ang second option na gagawin namin," said Canlas.

They also plan to compete in various tournaments ahead of the SEA Games, particularly the Asian Under-23 Fencing Championships that will be held in Taiwan in October. 

"Baka doon na rin, before Southeast Asian Games, nag-plan din ako ng isang competition, sa Taipei Open din," Canlas added. "Kasi medyo maluwag sila." 

"Tapos 'yun nga, magi-invite kami ng mga foreign fencers dito para may makalaban sila na mas magagaling pa. 'Yun ang magiging plano." 

The fencing team won two gold medals, two silvers, and two bronzes in the 2019 SEA Games held at home. The women's team delivered a gold in the team epee, while Jylyn Nicanor won gold in the individual sabre. 

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