IOC scholarship a big boost for fencer Catantan, says nat'l coach

Samantha Catantan

After nearly clinching a spot in the Tokyo Olympics, Filipino fencing sensation Samantha Catantan hopes to make it to the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, France with the help of a scholarship program under the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Catantan, a member of the Penn State University fencing team, is one of eight Filipino athletes that the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) approved for the Olympics Solidarity Scholarship Grant of the IOC, which gives a monthly financial assistance of $7,500 per country.

Catantan and the seven other athletes will be receiving a monthly allowance of $937.50 – or approximately P46,000 – from the IOC until 2024 as they try to earn spots in the Paris Olympics.

POC president and Rep. Bambol Tolentino of the 8th district of Cavite personally selected Catantan and the seven other athletes for the scholarship grant of the Olympic body.

“This is a big help for Sam in her bid to make it to the Olympics. This financial assistance from the IOC will definitely help her on her expenses in joining various international tournaments,” said national team coach Amat Canlas when reached for comment by the Manila Bulletin.

“Of course, we are very thankful to the POC, especially to POC president Tolentino for including Sam to the list of IOC scholars. It’s a big boost not only for Sam, but for the fencing community because they have the trust and confidence in one of our fencers.”

The 20-year-old Catantan is now in the US to prepare for different events where Penn State is set to join later this year as they gear up for the NCAA Fencing Championship next year.

As a freshman, Catantan went 20-0 in pool play in the 2021 US NCAA tournament held in Pennsylvania last March. She went on to win a bronze trophy and was named to the All-America selection.

Following her rookie season, Catantan donned the national team colors and competed in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan but fell short as she settled with a bronze medal.

After they were informed of the IOC scholarship grant by the POC, Canlas said that in his previous conversation with Catantan, they were trying to identify the tournaments where she would join.

The International Fencing Federation organizes various tournaments, such as the world championships, the Grand Prix which is held three times every year, and the quarterly World Cup.

There is also the Asian Fencing Championships, and other satellite events where fencers earn corresponding points in every tournament.

The highest points that are given in an event outside of the Olympics is during the world championships as gold medal winners receive 80 points.

Canlas said that it’s very important for Catantan to join these events to earn points going to the Paris Olympics. He said that the IOC scholarship grant is a big help to be added to the funding Catantan receives from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

“After the OQT, we talked about joining the World Cup, Grand Prix, and of course the World and Asian championships. Combine the support we get from the PSC to this scholarship grant, and hopefully a private sponsor for Sam, making it to the Olympics is doable,” he said.

Aside from Catantan, also approved by the POC for the IOC scholarship grant are Tokyo Olympics veterans EJ Obiena of pole vault and weightlifter Elreen Ann Ando, as well as boxers Rogen Ladon are Aira Villegas, Jericho Francisco of skateboarding, wrestling’s Allen Mitch Arcilla, and Patrick Coo of BMX.