Filipino fencer Samantha Catantan begins her training with teammates as the fencing team of Penn State University formally opens practice Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) in preparation for the 2021 US NCAA tournament.
“I’m so excited to meet the whole team and to fence with others as well,” said Catantan, who turns 19 on February 1, in a message to Manila Bulletin Tuesday (Monday night in the US).
On the eve of Day 1 of training with the Nittany Lions, Catantan said she is always reminded of the purpose of the journey she is having now despite being away from family and friends.
She said that she is constantly communicating with her parents – Ronaldo Catantan Jr. and Ailene – as well as her coaches in the national team led by Amat Canlas when she needs advice.
“They always say to me to remember my purpose here and train hard kaya ng ginagawa ko sa Philippines,” said Catantan, the first homegrown fencer to be given an athletic scholarship by a Division 1 school in the US NCAA.
Penn State U is a powerhouse in the tournament having won a record 13 championships, although the last one came in the 2014-15 Season. Two years ago, they were runners up to Columbia-Barnard before the 2020 Season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time, organizers are looking at holding it this March in Pennsylvania.
Catantan said she is not the only foreign player recruited by Penn State U. Her teammate and form partner is from Ukraine, and like her, they were recruited after a strong showing in the World Junior Fencing Championship in Poland two years ago.
“Karamihan po nga mga kasama ko international student-athletes din,” said Catantan, also the first Filipino to win a gold medal in the Asian Under-23 back in 2019.
An incoming freshman after she graduated with honors as student-athlete of University of the East, Catantan will also start her studies at Penn State U today (Tuesday in the US).
She said that her options are still open on what course to take although she is considering taking a course that is in line with business, saying: “I’ll take either finance or accounting.”
“Online class naman po although we have one subject po na in person, but that starts sometime in February,” she said.
Aside from her commitment at Penn State U, Catantan said she remains fully dedicated to her duties as a member of the national team. She is expected to be with the squad in the Asia and Oceania meet this April – the qualifying regional tournament for the Tokyo Olympics.
The event was originally set last April 2020, but because of COVID-19 outbreak, organizers in Korea opted to postpone the event. Only the top performers in every category will earn Olympics slots.