PH fencers eye Korea training

The Philippine fencing team is eyeing a possible South Korean training as part of its preparations for the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.

Samantha Catantan at the online PSA Forum

Coach Rolando ‘Amat’ Canlas said a trip to the country considered a power in fencing is possible for the Philippine Fencing Association, which plans to set up at least a month of training camp to get the Filipinos primed up for the Nov. 21 to Dec. 2 biennial meet.

But considering the current travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic globally, Canlas disclosed during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum online edition that the federation has a ready backup plan but still with a Korean touch.

He said the plan is yet to be finalized, but is definitely on the table for the Filipino fencers.

“‘Yung ginawa naming Plan B kasi mas mura ‘yun, is mag-send na lang ng Korean fencers dito para may makalaban kaming malalakas. Siguro mga 12 fencers ‘yun. ‘Yan ang second option,” said Canlas in the public sports program presented by San Miguel Corporation, MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

The national coach was joined in the online Forum by rising star Sam Catantan, who is currently in Pennsylvania where she is part of the Penn State University fencing team.

If not for the pandemic, Amat said apart from Korea, the fencers are also supposed to go to Hong Kong for another two-week training prior to the SEA Games.

But the quarantine protocols the team will have to observe during those travel sojourn could be financially costly, if not time consuming.

“‘Yun ang papatay sa amin, ‘yung quarantine. Like sa Hong Kong, ‘pag nagpunta ka sa kanila 21 days ang quarantine, ang haba. So doon pa lang ubos na ang oras mo. Sa Korea ang problema naman, 14 days ang quarantine nila,” said Canlas, adding he already has a previous arrangement with Korea about training in the country again the same way the team did before the 2019 SEA Games here.

“Noong nagpunta lang kami ng isang buwan (2019), grabe na ‘yung ginastos namin doon. Plus ngayon isasama mo pa ‘yung quarantine,” added the national coach in the Forum powered by Smart and Upstream Media as official webcast partner.

But similar to the team’s preparation for the recent Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the Filipino fencers including Catantan, would again undergo a bubble training in Ormoc City, where PFA President Richard Gomez is the current mayor.

The federation will be holding the National Fencing Championships at the Superdome on July 3-11 which serves as the qualifier for the SEA Games, where the team will try to equal or surpass the two gold medals it won two years ago.

All eyes is definitely on Catantan, the former University of the East standout who was named women’s fencing MVP of Penn State right on her rookie season and came close to earning a berth in the Tokyo Olympics following a bronze medal finish in the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

“Simula nu’ng dumating ako dito (Penn State) nakita ko kung paano maglaro ‘yung mga Americans and other fencers from another country. Grabe talaga ‘yung confidence nila. At sobrang laking tulong talaga na malakas ‘yung tiwala mo sa sarili mo, sa laro mo, at sa mga coaches mo,” said Catantan, who also earned All-American honors.

She bagged a bronze medal in the last SEA Games after losing to eventual gold medalist Amita Berthier of Singapore in the semis.

Catantan looks forward at a possible rematch with Berthier, who clinched a berth in the Tokyo Olympics during the last Uzbekistan qualifier, in Vietnam.

“Lumakas ‘yung confidence ko na kaya talaga,” added the Filipina fencer, who admitted having so much respect to her Singaporean rival.

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