PH fencers ready for OQT

Published April 19, 2021, 10:13 PM

by Waylon Galvez

After more than two months of bubble training in Ormoc City, coach Amat Canlas of the national fencing team believes the five fencers are ready for the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) on April 26 and 27 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

“They’re all good, they were able to regain their form and condition after two months of intense training,” Canlas said in a phone interview with Manila Bulletin Monday.

The five fencers that trained with Canlas and other members of the national team in the bubble for the OQT are Jylyn Nicanor, Hanniel Abella, CJ Concepcion, Noelito Jose and Nathaniel Perez.

Samantha Catantan, who placed third in the US NCAA Fencing Championship as a freshman at Penn State University and recently competed in the Junior/Cadet World Championship in Egypt, will also join the OQT.

“Sam is also ready, and she showed her readiness with an unforgettable campaign in the US NCAA where she went undefeated in pool play. She also did well in the junior/cadet world,” said Canlas.

“I told Sam that it’s OK if she didn’t get the gold medal in the US NCAA, or made a podium finish in the world junior/cadet, because the most important tournament is the OQT. All that she learned, the experience she gained, she can all use that in the OQT.”

Perez and Catantan will represent the country in the men’s and women’s foil, Concepcion and Nicanor in sabre, while Jose and Abella will see action in the epee category of the OQT.

Only the best fencer for each weapon in men’s and women’s will earn the remaining spots in the Tokyo Olympics since other slots have been taken through the world ranking and OQTs in other continents.

Canlas, a two-time gold medalist in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games as an athlete, said that the training camp allowed the athletes to refocus and get their form back after a year of no physical training due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For almost a year all we did was online training. There is nothing we can do because of the health situation,” said Canlas, who took over as head coach of the national team in 2016.

“That’s why we are very thankful to Mayor Richard Gomez, who is also our president at the Philippine Fencing Association (PFA) for taking the initiatives to have this bubble training camp.”

Under normal circumstances, the national team would have trained abroad to prepare for the OQT, which was originally set April 2020 in Seoul, South Korea but was called off due to the global health crisis.

The national fencing team is set to leave Manila for Tashkent on Wednesday, April 21.