MANILA, Philippines – Filipina fencer Maxine Esteban is set for a tough uphill climb this year as she continues her grind for the ultimate goal of competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Still recovering from an ACL tear she suffered at the 2022 World Fencing Championships last July, the 22-year-old standout is all set for a return at the 2023 Paris World Cup this January 12 to 14, and she hopes that the tournament will get her groove back as a daunting 2023 first half schedule awaits her.
“I am flying to Italy to start training. Mentally, I am raring to go. I have been sidelined far too long, in my opinion, and I would love to be doing what I love the most,” she said.
“My main goal for participating in this tournament is for me to get a feel of the action again. Since I am not yet past the ‘safe’ period, I know that mentally, I will be making controlled movements making sure that I do not make any sudden careless ones.”
Under the careful supervision of esteemed foil coach Andrea Magro, Esteban is heading to Paris with a healthy mix of caution and confidence – knowing that the well-traveled national team tactician has her back every step of the way.
“Both my goal and Andrea’s is not really to fence in the same level as I did pre-injury. Rather, it is putting me back into circulation again,” continued the former UAAP MVP.
“The most important thing that I want to achieve from this tournament is to cancel out the psychological and mental fear that athletes have after returning to sports. I want to fence without thinking about my newly reconstructed ligament, but at the same time, I want to fence moderately.”
After the Paris tilt, Esteban will stay in France until the end of the month to continue rehab and training for the 2023 French Opens on January 28 and 29.
From there, she will have competitions left and right in multiple countries like the Italy Grand Prix this February 10 to 12, the World Cup in Egypt on February 23 to 25, the European Under-23 tournament in the Czech Republic on March 4 and 5, and the Seoul Grand Prix in South Korea on March 17 to 19.
Then from April to June, Esteban will make crucial stops as well in Croatia, Germany, and Poland – with all roads leading back to Paris for the ultimate sporting showpiece.
Needless to say, Esteban has no time for second thoughts and needs to keep her mind as far away from her injury as possible, as the road to the Olympics is full of twist, bumps, and turns.
Athletes only have two choices: step up or step aside. This is especially true for Philippine fencing, where no local bet has made it to the quadrennial meet in 30 years.
More notably, no Filipina has ever held that esteemed lifetime distinction of being an Olympian, and sure enough, Esteban is not wasting time to blaze that trail.
“From the moment I was told that I had torn my ACL, I never once looked back. I focused on my recovery. I knew it was a long process,” she said. “I scoured through the internet and found that full recovery would be at least eight months.”
“I think most athletes would take their sweet time to recover and I think this is just fair. However, I knew I had to do more than what most athletes do. I wanted to be back as soon as I can, plus time is of the essence since the Olympic qualifiers are just around the corner. I need to be ready by then.” – Rappler.com