Samantha Catantan takes on South Korea’s Hong in Fencing World Championship final 64

Waylon Galvez

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Samantha Catantan takes on South Korea’s Hong in Fencing World Championship final 64

Samantha Catantan at the recent 7th Southeast Asia and Pacific Fencing Championship held in Ormoc City

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Filipina fencer Samantha Catantan struts her stuff at the women's foil individual event of the 2022 Fencing Worlds and eyes a match against reigning Olympic champion, Fil-Am Lee Kiefer

MANILA, Philippines – Following an impressive first round performance, Filipino fencing sensation Samantha Catantan takes the piste again when she plays in the final 64 of the 2022 Fencing World Championships on Tuesday, July 19, in Cairo, Egypt.

Catantan, who finished her pool play with a 5-1 record in the women’s foil individual event, will face Sena Hong of South Korea, the No. 32 outright seeded fencer in the tournament, as they face off at 8:30 am (2:30 pm, Manila time).

The 20-year-old Catantan defeated Gabriela Del Padua of Puerto Rico, 5-2, Hungary’s Anna Poltz, 5-4, Mayuri Muralidharan of Australia, 5-2, Hong Kong’s Kimberley Vanessa Cheung, 5-3, and Kanagalakshmi Vinayakam Paranjothi of India, 5-0, in pool play.

The only blemish in her opening round campaign was a 4-5 defeat to Irem Karamete of Turkey.

Nevertheless, it was still a solid pool campaign that gave Catantan the 17th spot following pool play, which earned her the No. 1 seed and a bye in the initial knockout stage to decide the No. 33 to 64 fencers in the direct eliminations – eventually giving her the 33rd spot in the final 64 of the tournament.

The first to 16th entries are outright participants, while the No. 17 to 32 fencers are the top 16 from pool play.

That 33rd place already gave the one-time UE Red Warrior her best finish in the world championship, eclipsing her previous best of 63rd during the 2018 meet in Wuxi, China.

“I was not expecting that I’d be seeded, right away after pools. I normally get low seeding due to my international ranking. In fact, I was ranked fourth in my pool,” Catantan told Rappler on Monday, July 18.

“Of course, beating my personal record has always been my goal. Now the goal is to make the top 32, which is definitely difficult to do, but I will definitely do my best,” she added.

Catatantan is now an incoming third year student at Penn State University where she is the first homegrown Filipino to earn an athletic scholarship in a US-NCAA school.

According to her, she has not faced Hong in an individual bout, although in her younger days she remembered playing the latter during a team event between Korea and the Philippines.

Olympic champion next?

The thing that excites Catantan – if she wins against Hong – is the probability of colliding against Filipino-American fencer Lee Kiefer, the gold medal winner in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics from the US.

The 28-year-old Kiefer is the No. 1 seed in the final 64, where she will face 64th seed Katina Proestakis of Ukraine also in a knockout match.

“Yes, first time ever (facing Kiefer),” said Catantan, who considers the fencer from Notre Dame one of her idols because of the fencing style. “Also she’s a Filipino and her fencing style is for smaller fencers like me.”

Catantan said her only encounter with Kiefer was when she asked for a photo several years ago in an international tournament where they were introduced by former national team coach Amat Canlas.

Now, her next possible meeting with Kiefer is in the round of 32.

“I’m really hoping to make it to the Final 32,” Catantan said.

Meanwhile, Maxine Esteban – the country’s other bet in women’s foil – finished 69th overall after she was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury in her direct elimination bout against Chayanutphat Shinnakerdchoke of Thailand. – Rappler.com

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