Catantan feels emotional as US trip nears

Published December 23, 2020, 5:11 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Samantha Catantan with her family, parents Rolando Jr. and Ailene, and siblings Kirsten Shannelle Janna Allysah and Sohia Shekinah during the 30th Southeast Asian Games here last December 2019. (Photo from Sam Catantan)

A week from now, Filipino fencing sensation Samantha Catantan will fly to the United States where she will start her college education through a historic athletic scholarship grant from Penn State University as a member of the fencing team in the US NCAA.

The 18-year-old member of the Philippine Fencing Team admitted Wednesday it’s starting to sink in that she is leaving for the US. Catantan is set to fly to New York on December 30.

“Medyo nararamdaman na din yung lungkot na paalis na ako,” said Catantan when contacted by Manila Bulletin.

“Of course ma-miss ng sobra ang family. Sobrang close talaga kami sa isa’t isa so sobrang mami-miss ko sila,” said Catantan, whose siblings Kirsten Shannelle, Sophia Shekinah and Janna Allysah are also into fencing.

“Pero iniisip ko na lang na para sa akin ito, for my future na din, and of course for the Philippine Fencing Team kasi marami ako matutuhan doon, malaki yung pwede ko ma-gain na experience.”

The eldest of the four girls of Rodrigo Jr. and Aileen Catantan, she took an athletic scholarship grant after Penn State University offered her a spot after her impressive performance at the 2019 World Junior Fencing Championship in Poland where she advanced to the round of 16.

Months after that, she became the first Filipino to capture a gold medal in the 2019 Asian Under-23 Championship in Thailand.

By accepting the offer of Penn State – a fencing powerhouse in the US NCAA as it holds the record with 13 titles – Catantan became the first homegrown Filipino fencer to have an athletic scholarship in America.

Read: Catantan ready to help Penn State U

“History na din yan kumabaga kasi kauna-unahan si Sam,” said national team mentor Amat Canlas, who – together with his brother Christian Canlas – have been with Catantan since she started fencing at age 8.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Catantan has been training online with the rest of the national team after the 30th Southeast Asian Games where she bagged two bronze medals in the foil event.

She said that she would be staying in New York with relatives then will travel to Pennsylvania on January 10. Catantan said school starts on the 19th and training of teams will also begin.

Read: National coach hopes more Filipino fencers follow Catantan’s path

“Ready naman na kapag nag-start na yung training and competition. Hindi rin tumigil ang national team sa training even may pandemic. Excited na din ako na mag-start sa Penn State,” said Catantan, a former University of the East fencing team stalwart.