Paris Olympics

Ivorian Olympian Maxine Esteban ‘praying’ PH fencers make it to Paris

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Ivorian Olympian Maxine Esteban ‘praying’ PH fencers make it to Paris

MILESTONE. Maxine Esteban celebrates after clinching an Olympic fencing berth.

Augusto Bizzi/FIE

After booking an Olympic slot for Ivory Coast, Maxine Esteban hopes Filipino fencers also get a shot to qualify for the Paris Games in next month’s wild card tournament

MANILA, Philippines – Maxine Esteban made history as the first homegrown Filipino female fencer to clinch an Olympic berth. But this time, the glory of reaching the world’s biggest sporting stage belongs to Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).

“This is for Cote d’Ivoire, the country that embraced me, believed in me, and supported me all the way, and this is for the Philippines, the country my heart will always beat proud,” said Esteban after clinching the lone African singles spot in the Olympic women’s foil.

Still, Esteban, who switched federations after being controversially dropped by the Philippine Fencing Association (PFA), hopes to see Filipino fencers compete in the Paris Games this July.

“I am praying that the Philippines will be able to qualify more fencers in April,” said Esteban.

Filipino fencers can still aim for Paris Olympics slots in a wild card tournament pitting Asian hopefuls next month.

The 23-year-old Esteban competed in the final Olympic qualifier in Washington DC in the United States on Saturday, March 16. 

Although the  naturalized Ivorian fell short in the second round, she still collected enough points from previous Olympic qualifier competitions to directly qualify for the Paris Games. 

For now, Esteban braces for more hard work in her Olympic buildup with famed Italian fencing coach Andrea Magro, who has mentored several Olympic gold medalists.

“This is not the end. This is just part of the ongoing journey,” said Esteban. 

“There will be more days of hard work ahead, all to make sure that I won’t be satisfied with just making an appearance at the Paris Olympics but use that grand stage as a chance to compete and test myself again.”

Esteban, an eight-time Philippine national champion and World Cup multi-medalist, also thanked her family and everyone “who helped to make sure the door would be always open” and  pushed her to “continue chasing” her Olympic dream.

Last year, Esteban switched federations due to what she said was an “unfair and unjust” treatment by the PFA.

Despite the setback, Esteban soldiered on and now hopes her feat will inspire “those who dream and have at one point almost given up, to persist amidst storms and rough waters.”

The Philippines currently has six athletes who will see action in the Paris Olympics, with still more hoping to qualify in the coming months.

Boxers Nesthy Petecio and Aira Villegas recently joined the roster that includes world No. 2 pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnasts Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan, and boxer Eumir Marcial. –

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