Aside from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) next month, the fencing national team is using the bubble training camp in Ormoc City to prepare for this year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Five of the six Filipino fencers competing in the OQT are with 11 other athletes inside the bubble, and national team coach Amat Canlas said they are gearing up for the 31st biennial meet in Vietnam.
Canlas clarified that all 16, plus others who are training in Manila and in other countries will still need to join the tournament in June for the selection process of the national team for the SEA Games.
“The training here is double purpose, because it’s not just the fencers who will compete in the OQT who are getting the proper training, but those with a shot at making it to the national team to the SEA Games,” said Canlas when contacted Wednesday by Manila Bulletin.
“The fencers who are not in the OQT, they are their sparring partners. In a way they’re able to train well too, which is important because we have a June event to select the fencers going to Vietnam.”
The five fencers in the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers are Jylyn Nicanor and CJ Concepcion in men’s and women’s sabre event, Hanniel Abella and Noelito Jose in epee, and Nathaniel Perez in foil.
Samantha Catantan will also see action in the OQT in the foil event, but she is currently in the US playing for Penn State University in the NCAA. Prior to the OQT, she is also set to join the World Junior’s Fencing Championships on April 3-11 in Cairo, Egypt.
Nicanor bagged the gold medal in individual women’s sabre in the last SEA Games here, while Abella was part of the gold medal winning team in women’s epee in the same regional meet.
Abella also won silver in the women’s individual epee, while Concepcion bagged silver in men’s individual saber. Perez, Jose and Catantan earned bronze in their respective events – men’s individual foil, men’s individual epee, and women’s individual foil.
Of the 11 other fencers in the Ormoc City bubble, six were SEA Games medalists two years ago.
Mickyle Bustos was with the gold medal winning team in women’s epee, Queen Dalmacio took bronze in the women’s saber team, Eric Brando had a bronze medal with the men’s saber team, Justine Tinio and Wilhelmina Lozada got the bronze with the women’s foil team, while Shawn Nicolei Felipe pocketed a bronze in the men’s team foil.
The five, according to Canlas, are potential fencers for the SEAG, and these are Prince John Felipe in men’s foil, Lee Ergina, Jian Miguel Bautistain and Darylle Lumahan in men’s epee and Sandro Sia in men’s sabre.
Six are also training in Manila, all bronze medalists in the previous SEA Games.
They are Maxine Esteban in women’s foil, Kim Camahalan and Nicole Cortey in women’s saber, Jolo Viceo in men’s foil, and Daniel Villanueva and Don Navarro in men’s sabre.
Aside from Catantan, also training abroad is Gabriella Guinto, who was with the epee women’s team that captured the gold medal.
Canlas said that the tournament, as mentioned by Philippine Fencing Association chief Richard Gomez – the Ormoc City mayor – to select the SEA Games participants is set for three weeks, starting at the end of June, and then in the second and fourth weeks of July to implement the necessary COVID-19 health protocols including social distancing.
He said that this would allow those based abroad to participate in the event.
“By that time it’s already school vacation for the students, especially those from abroad. They’ll be able to join because this is an open tournament. They just have to come here, participate and prove their worth,” said Canlas.