Catantan looks to improve after impressive US NCAA debut

Published March 30, 2021, 1:58 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Sam Catantan wraps herself with the Philippine flag as she celebrates her tied for third place finish in her first US NCAA Fencing Championship last Sunday in Pennsylvania. (Photo from Sam Catantan)

Filipino fencing sensation Sam Catantan of Penn State University considers her first US NCAA Fencing Championship campaign one for the books.

The freshman went undefeated in the preliminary bouts by going 20-0 in the women’s foil event, and although she fell short of making it to the championship match, her tied for third place finish last Sunday in Pennsylvania only proved that Catantan has the talent and skills to compete at a high level.

“This experience was really memorable for me,” the 19-year-old Catantan told Manila Bulletin in a message exchange Tuesday. “As a freshman, it was really hard because everything is new and I know things will not be easy.”

“I had to adjust mentally since I’m a thousand miles away from my family. Also physically, there was a lack of proper preparation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“But I learned how to stay focused even if I’m still in the process of adjusting. I also developed how to fully trust myself and my actions,” added Catantan, who only arrived in the US late last year.

Catantan said that although she regularly talks to her family – particularly her parents Jon and Aileen – there were moments she would feel homesick particularly during the first couple of weeks of her stay in the US.

She was recruited by Division 1 school Penn State to be part of its fencing team, and Catantan made history when she made the tournament proper after her impressive performance in the invitations–a first for a homegrown Filipino in the US NCAA.

However, she is thankful to her Penn State teammates and coaches, who all made her transition as a foreign student/athlete easy, which allowed her to focus more on training and studies.

“Sobrang laking tulong po ng mga coaches and teammates ko dahil sobrang naramdaman ko po kung gaano kalaki yung tiwala nila kaya po umabot hanggang dulo (My coaches and teammates here was also a bog factor, I really felt their full trust in me that I was able to make it that far),” said Catantan.

“After my last bout, I realize that I need to be consistent in every situation. Every time that I go to the piste, I always have a game plan. Not to just go there and just play – I have to be ready.”

Next for Catantan are two important events this April – the Junior World Fencing Championships in Egypt, and the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Uzbekistan.

Catantan is scheduled to fly to Cairo on April 2 for the world junior’s that will be played April 3 to 11, and then she will join the national team in the Asian OQT on April 26-27 in Tashkent.