By WAYLON GALVEZ
Filipino fencer Sam Catantan of Penn State University capped her debut in the US NCAA Fencing Championship with a bronze medal finish Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania.
The first ‘homegrown’ Filipino to compete for a Division 1 school in the tournament went undefeated in the preliminary rounds with a 20/20 record in the pool bouts.
That gave the 19-year-old Catantan the No. 1 spot going to the semifinals of the foil competition.
But what appeared to be a Cinderella story for the former University of the East star was ruined by PSU teammate – the more experienced Lodovica Bicego of Italy.
It was a heartbreaking loss, but Cantantan’s overall performance was worthy to be retold many times over.
But blamed it to the so-called rookie jitters, Catantan squandered a precious 12-9 lead as the Italian used her experience to the max to pull off a thrilling 15-14 win.
However, the way Catantan fought was a testament of her skills and talent developed through hard work, dedication and resiliency over the years as a member of the University of the East junior’s fencing squad and the national team under her coaches, the Canlas brothers Amat and Chris.
“I’m very happy that I made it to the semifinal of the US NCAA, despite being a freshman, I was able to represent Penn State and of course the Philippines well,” Catantan said Monday in a message exchange with Manila Bulletin-Tempo.
“I’m thankful to my coaches and teammates here at Penn State, teammates with the national team, my coaches Amat and Chris and everybody with the national team, and to my family and friends for their prayers and support,” added Catantan, who dedicated her campaign to parents Jon and Aileen.
Bicego made it 14-13, but Catantan knotted the count at 14-all before the former delivered the final point that gave her the first spot in the championship round of the collegiate event.
Stefani Deschner of Notre Dame, however, captured the title when she downed Bicego 15-9 in the final. Deschner earned a final spot with a similar 15-9 win over teammate Amita Berthier of Singapore in the other semifinal pairing.
Berthier is the same player Catantan defeated during 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in the country and during the pool play last Saturday, 5-3.
In the OQT, however, only the top fencers in all three categories – sabre, foil, and epee – in the men’s and women’s divisions will advance in the Tokyo Olympics.