After skipping the first semester of school in the US, Filipino fencer Sam Catantan said she is ready to start her college life at Penn State University next year as part of the Nittany Lions in the US NCAA tournament.
The 18-year-old Catantan obtained her US Visa last Friday and said she is set to leave early January.
“Actually until now hindi pa nag-sink in sa akin,” said Catantan when contacted by Manila Bulletin Monday. “Pero sobrang grateful talaga ako na isa ako sa mga napili ng Penn State na mabigyan ng scholarship.”
Catantan made history a year back when she became the first Filipino to capture a gold medal in the Asian U23 Championship in Thailand, but it was during the 2019 World Junior Fencing Championship in Poland that fencing scouts noticed her, which led to a scholarship offer from Penn State.
Philippine fencing team coach Amat Canlas said that Catantan made it to the round of 16 during that event.
“Kapag kasi nakarating ka sa stage na yun sa world marami na talagang nakatingin sayo, and isa nga ang Penn State na nag-offer kay Sam. May iba pang schools pero sa Penn State kasi ibang exposure ang makukuha niya,” said Canlas.
The said school is a powerhouse in fencing in the US NCAA as it holds the record with 13 titles.
However, the last time the Nittany Lions bagged the title was in 2014 as their bid to end a four-year drought was denied by Columbia Barnard last year.
The fencing tournament of the 2020 US NCAA has been called off because of the coronavirus outbreak, but league officials are hoping to resume competitions by next year.
The same health crisis forced Catantan to skip the first semester of school, which started last August. This time, however, she said she is ready, and excited as well for the opportunity.
“Kaya din po hindi ako nakaalis noong August kasi worried din ang family ko (because of COVID-19). But now ready na ako. I think I am mentally prepared naman kasi last year ko pa nalaman na mag-US ako,” said Catantan, a bronze medal winner in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games here.
“Matagal ko na din na-accept na medyo magiging mahirap talaga kasi may mga cultural differences. Of course malungkot pero we all know that it will be a great help ito for our family in the future,” said the former University of the East standout and champion fencer in the UAAP.
Chris Canlas, the first coach of Catantan when she started as an eight-year-old aspiring fencer, said he thinks that it will take little time for the former to adjust since she knows how to quickly adjust.
Canlas said that this trait was seen on Catantan at a young age.
“Fast learner si Sam,” said Canlas, who still works with young fencers as most of them move to different varsity teams and even with the national team like Catantan and SEA Games gold medalist Jylyn Nicanor.
“Napaka-bait na bata, may leadership and madali turuan. Kaya tingin ko once na nasa US na siya, makaka-adjust naman siya agad sa environment, and mage-excel siya doon.”
Catantan said that to prepare for her stint with Penn State, she continues with training sessions with the national team under coach Amat Canlas – a foil specialist who developed the skills of Catantan.
Catantan said she is still undecided on what course to take, but is considering accountancy.
“Hindi pa ako nakakapag-decide talaga, pero baka po accountancy. But as far as helping Penn State fencing team naman po, ready na ako, excited na ako to start my campaign with the team,” she said.