Catantan tops first round

Published March 28, 2021, 4:03 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Sam Catantan of Penn State University lets out a scream after winning one of her bouts in the opening round of women’s foil action in the US NCAA Fencing Championship at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. (Photo from US NCAA)

Filipino fencer Sam Catantan of Penn State University went undefeated in 14 bouts of her opening round campaign Saturday in the US NCAA Fencing Championship at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania.

The rookie from Quezon City, the first homegrown Filipino to play for a Division 1 school in the tournament, proved to be a dominant force in women’s foil as only five of her 14 bouts went the distance.

The 19-year-old Catantan showed tremendous poise under pressure when it mattered as she scored 5-4 victories against Haley Koo of Stanford, Konami Masui of University of California San Diego, University of North Carolina’s Aubrey Malloy, Duke’s Christina Ferrari, and Stefani Deschner of Notre Dame.

However, the most impressive performance for the former University of the East junior’s standout was her second to the last match in the first round that saw her score a 5-3 win against Southeast Asian Games rival Amita Berthier, the Singaporean who plays for Notre Dame.

Two years ago in the SEA Games here, Berthier won the gold medal, while Catantan settled with a bronze medal.

The two faced off last month during the Invitational Tournament, and they split their two bouts.

This time around, Catantan came through with an impressive performance as she now leads 23 other fencers in their category. She resumes her bid Sunday – Monday in the Philippines – with seven remaining bouts in the second round as she aims for a top four finish.

Only the top four fencers in the tournament in all categories – foil, sabre and epee – will advance in the medal round.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting this that I’ll be on top of the leader board after the first round. But yes, I’m very happy,” Catantan told Manila Bulletin in a message exchange Sunday.

“It’s important to stay focused, keep that confidence, but not be over confident, not overthink in the second round, which is very crucial for me to perform well to make it to the semifinal round.”

Meanwhile, US-based Filipino Lance Tan placed 18th out of the 24 fencers in the men’s foil division after he won three more bouts in the second round. Notre Dame’s Marcello Olivares took the gold medal in their division.

The 20-year-old Tan, a participant in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina, said that though he wasn’t able to move to the medal round, there are still lessons learned in his NCAA debut.

“There were many positive things that I took away from this first NCAA experience,” said Tan. “I performed well with victories against some of the higher ranked fencers. This was my first time in the National Championships and I have three more years of eligibility.”

“That gives me three more opportunities to build upon this experience. Being one of the Top 20 NCAA fencers in the United States is something I will always be proud of. Now I have to turn my attention to the Junior World Championships in Cairo.”