After more than a month of training in a bubble setting in Ormoc City, coach Amat Canlas of the national fencing team said he is satisfied with the progress of the five Filipino fencers preparing for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) scheduled next month.
The qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics will be hosted by Uzbekistan instead of Korea.
Canlas said no other detail was provided as Philippine Fencing Association (PFA) president Richard Gomez, also the Ormoc City mayor, only informed them of the change in venue.
“Same date of competition, April 26 to 27,” said Canlas when contacted Tuesday by Manila Bulletin.
“We have already requested to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) that we leave for Uzbekistan on April 23 because, like in the past, we want to be there at the venue two to three days before the start of the tournament.”
The delegation arrived in the bubble last February 6, and the first two weeks of training were dedicated in getting the fencers back in shape as the coaching staff focused on cardio exercises.
Canlas said this is something the athletes have not done because of the lack of proper training due to lockdowns in Metro Manila from the middle of March 2020 until January this year.
“We focused on that aspect, because the skills are already there,” said Canlas.
“They’re able to practice the movements, the steps during our online training. Although it’s different when you don’t have scrimmages, or what we call pre-fencing and we’re able to do that here in the bubble.”
“Now the five athletes are in a much better shape. They’ve already regained their form, now we’re just polishing their game by giving them more competitions in the bubble,” added Canlas.
The five fencers in the OQT 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 previous Southeast Asian 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 SEAG events – men’s individual foil, men’s individual epee, and women’s individual foil.
Only the champion from each category during the OQT will earn an Olympic berth for the Asian region since slots were already decided in OQTs in other continents and through world rankings by the world governing body FIE, or the International Fencing Federation.