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Foil fencer Samantha Catantan qualifies for the Paris Olympics



Foil fencer Samantha Catantan qualifies for the Paris Olympics

NOTHING, not even a sore left knee and a point deduction for a red card, could stop Filipino fencer Samantha Catantan from achieving her Olympic dream.

Armed with an iron will and a strong heart, Ms. Catantan turned back a taller, taller Sofiya Aktayeva of Kazakhstan in a gripping, heartbreaking 15-14 victory in the women’s foil final of the Asia-Oceania Zonal Olympic Qualifier in Fujairah, United States. Arab Emirates Saturday.

That unforgettable evening at the Zayed Sports Complex sent Ms. Catantan to the quadrennial games as the first fencer from the country to do so since Walter Torres, now a board member of the Philippine Sports Commission, made it that far in the 1992 Barcelona edition.

The Penn State star also turned 12e Filipino books a ticket to the French capital alongside pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnasts Carlos Yulo, Aleah Finnegan and Levi Jung-Ruivivar, boxers Eumir Marcial, Nesthy Petecio and Aira Villegas, weightlifters Vanessa Sarno, John Ceniza and Elreen Ando, ​​and rower Joanie Delgaco.

And it was a memorable event, as 22-year-old Ms. Catantan had to endure a loss of points after receiving a red card for not returning to her waiting line in time and being down 12-9 and having a sharp pain on her . surgically repaired ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) that she tore during last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, when the score was at 13.

After a medical timeout to address the problem, Ms. Catantan, still in excruciating pain, bravely limped back to the track, plodded on and courageously faced her Kazakh foe with whatever strength and power she had left.

It produced perhaps the most unforgettable moment of her life as she won two of the last three points to complete a huge victory that resonated across her country, hungry for sporting glory.

The moment she realized she had already won, she fell to the mat, cried with joy and covered her face as a small but boisterous Filipino tearfully celebrated with her from the stands.

It was a conquest that wiped away all the sadness and stigma Ms Catantan felt after falling two steps short of reaching the Tokyo Games and missing out on a SEA Games gold in Cambodia last year after tearing her left cruciate ligament .

And now she’s back and on top of the world.

Interestingly, Ms Catantan will join an Olympic field that includes former national team teammate Maxine Esteban, who represents Ivory Coast and who also made it to the African qualifiers. — Joey Villar