Paris Olympics

‘An honor’ to face Catantan, says Esteban of potential Olympic fencing duel

Philip Matel

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‘An honor’ to face Catantan, says Esteban of potential Olympic fencing duel

FOCUSED. Filipino-Ivorian fencer Maxine Esteban in action at the Shanghai Grand Prix.

International Fencing Federation

Naturalized Ivorian Maxine Esteban says top Filipino fencer Samantha Catantan will be a ‘worthy’ opponent in the Paris Olympics, but she hopes they won’t cross paths in the early stages

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-Ivorian fencer Maxine Esteban said it would be “an honor” to face local bet Samantha Catantan if their paths meet in the upcoming Paris Olympics this July.

“Everyone who qualified in the Olympics, they’re all really good fencers,” Esteban told reporters while watching some volleyball action in the AVC Challenge Cup on Thursday, May 23.

“Just like Sam (Catantan), she would be a worthy fencer to fence against. It would be an honor to fence against her,” she added.

“ I’m really looking forward, if ever that time comes, but hopefully we won’t face each other during the early stages and you know, maybe we could meet up in the finals.”

Catantan said earlier this week that they have “no control” of the potential clash, while her coach, Amat Canlas, said he prefers the two former teammates will not cross paths.

The 22-year-old Catantan became the first female fencer from the Philippines to qualify to the Olympiad after overcoming injury during her stint at the Asia-Oceania Zonal Olympic Qualifier in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates last April.

She also became the first Filipino to qualify in the Games since Walter Torres in the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Esteban, on the other hand, qualified much earlier, representing the Ivory Coast after an acrimonious split with the Philippine Fencing Association (PFA) in 2023.

The former Ateneo standout alleged that the PFA unfairly dropped her from the national team while recovering from an ACL tear on her knee – a fallout that later prompted her to switch federation.

Now a naturalized player for Ivory Coast, Esteban will  begin her intense training regimen as Esteban leaves for Weinheim, Germany on Saturday, May 25.

“It’s very exciting to compete in the Olympics, and play in many more competitions such as the African Championship,” shared Esteban.

“We will then have training in Poland and we’re going to a training camp in Paris with the Japanese national fencing team and French national team,” she continued.

Her only wish now for her former teammates is to improve themselves by participating in many more high-level events.

“I hope that they can get more budget to train abroad and get more experience and compete in more competitions because I think you gain more confidence if you compete more,” she said, adding, “because the talent in the Philippines is really great. I hope that they can use this talent and qualify more fencers.”

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Prior to watching her Ateneo friend Faith Nisperos play for Alas Pilipinas in the AVC Challenge Cup, Esteban renewed her sponsorship deal with worldwide sports apparel brand ANTA. 

She had been repping the brand since her collegiate playing days for the Blue Eagles, where she won multiple medals.

“They believed in me from the very start since I had nothing, and I’m very thankful for everything that they have done for me,” said Esteban during a separate brand event. “It’s not only a renewal of contract but a renewal of confidence and trust in me.” 

“She’s a world-class athlete,” said ANTA Philippines general manager JP Paglinawan. “The partnership we started last 2022, and we are renewing it… not because she’s going to the Olympics but because we always believed in her ability, in her jive, in her passion for the sport.”

The brand said it looks to expand Esteban’s ambassadorship to the global role as she holds a unique position to make an impact and provide inspiration for future athletes in two countries – the Ivory Coast and the Philippines.

“When I qualified [for the Olympics], I received so much support from the Philippines and the Ivory Coast and it was really overwhelming for me and I’m very thankful for,” said Esteban.

“I realized my role is very important, because from both countries, I’m getting so much support and people are looking up to me more.” –

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