Maxine Esteban issues ‘adversely affected’ national team, says PH fencing

Philip Matel

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Maxine Esteban issues ‘adversely affected’ national team, says PH fencing

STANDOUT. Maxine Esteban in action in an international fencing tournament.


Breaking its months-long silence, the Philippine Fencing Association says it’s ‘compelled to set the record straight’ after Olympic-bound Maxine Esteban switched nationalities

MANILA, Philippines – Just weeks after Maxine Esteban booked her spot in the Paris Olympics, the Philippine Fencing Association (PFA) broke its months-long silence on the issues involving the former national team standout who switched nationalities.

Esteban had accused the PFA of “extremely hurtful, unfair, and disrespectful” actions, which prompted her to switch federation and become a naturalized player for Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).

But the PFA maintained that Samantha Catantan is the country’s top-ranked fencer in the women’s foil category over Esteban, citing results and statistics in a statement and other supporting documents released on April 3.

“It has been said, because Ms. Esteban qualified for the Paris Olympics, that she could have represented the Philippines instead of the Ivory Coast. This is not correct,” the PFA, led by president Rene Gacuma, said.

The PFA, which presented the head-to-head results of Catantan and Esteban from 2017 to 2024, noted that the former finished higher in 13 out of 18 competitions and “produced better results overall in international tournaments.”

Esteban’s allegations of unjust treatment, the association said, have already “adversely affected the morale and cohesion” of the Philippine fencing team.

“[To] secure an Olympic slot for the Philippines, the PFA was and is obliged to send Ms. Catantan – officially the country’s top-ranked women’s FOILIST under the aforementioned results,” the PFA said. 

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Per the International Fencing Federation rules, each country can only send one fencer per weapon to vie for the remaining Olympic spots per continent.

Esteban switched nationalities in 2023 after alleging she was unfairly dropped from the Philippine team, while recovering from an ACL tear she suffered during competition.

Under Ivory Coast, Esteban became the first homegrown Filipino fencer to clinch a Paris Games berth last March, racking up enough points from previous Olympic qualifiers.

The association said it even backed Esteban’s decision to switch nationalities, calling it a “clever move.”

“The PFA fully supported Ms. Esteban’s decision to switch nationalities. Evidence of this was the association’s decision to retain her entry in the World Championships under the Philippines when her application for an Ivory Coast passport was still being processed,” the statement said.

“Had the association not done this, she would have been unable to fence in this competition if her passport was not issued on time.” 

When Esteban switched allegiance in 2023, she ranked world No. 39, then the highest-ranked Filipino. 

However, the PFA said it was a direct result of Esteban playing in more competitions because the former Ateneo star could afford to fund her own participation.

“Ms. Esteban accumulated more international ranking points by laudably using her private resources to compete in more overseas tournaments than what the PFA’s limited budget allowed – ranking points that were still insufficient for her to qualify through the more competitive Asian zone,” the PFA said.

The supporting documents also noted that Esteban is a US passport holder, but that pathway would be even harder given the elite competition in the Americas.

“As her chances in Asia and the US are dim, switching nationalities to Ivory Coast was a clever move in attaining her Olympic dream,” the association said. 

“The Philippine Fencing Association understood her quest and put all its support behind her.”

Despite the “lingering issues,” the federation said it is committed to improving its national team athletes, as well as internal processes, with transparency and fairness.

“The association reaffirms its commitment to the development of fencing and to help more Filipino fencers achieve their athletic goals and, in so doing, bring honor to our country and our flag.” – Rappler.com

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