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Fencer vows to work harder to realize dream

KUALA LUMPUR – Fencer Maxine Esteban has poured long hours in practice, travelled thousands of kilometers, spent months away from her family and dealt with high expectations back home.

She earned a bronze medal in the women’s foil and naturally, she was disappointed.

“I was happy I got a bronze, but I could have done better,” said Esteban, one of six medalists in the national team that competed in the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

Esteban, who trained in France for a month, said she played hard preliminary matches to get into the knockout stage.
“I’m always unlucky with poules and DEs. But, oh, well, it’s okay. I’m happy to finish with a bronze,” said the 16-year-old high school student.

A poule is a group of fencers vying for spots in the direct eliminations (DEs), the sport’s version of the tennis draw.

In the semifinals, Esteban lost to Amita Berthier of Singapore who beat Samantha Kyle Catalan for the gold.

In retrospect, Esteban said the bronze finish should serve as a motivation for her to work harder.

“God gave me the bronze because I deserve a medal for all the hard work,” she said. “But He didn’t want to give me a gold or silver because I might be overconfident.”

Brennan Wayne Louie led a 1-2 finish with Nathaniel Perez Jr. in the men’s foil to emerge as the best performers of the team.

Harlene Raguin and Haniel Abella also took silver and bronze, respectively in women’s epee.

National coach Rolando Canlas said he’s happy with the performance of the team after one year of hard practice.

Vietnam won three of six gold medals, but the Philippines matched Vietnam’s six total medals.

“Maraming pressure, stress and sacrifices ang mga bata lalo na school. Ang tagal nila umaabsent dahil sa mga competition abroad and training. Pero worth it lahat,” Canlas said.

Canlas made special mention of Catalan and Esteban, the youngest members of the team.

“Sabi ko sa mga boss na huwag mag-expect dahil nga mga bata pa, pero hindi ko inaasahan na ganun kaganda and lalaruin nila. Sila ang nagbigay ng inspirasyon kaya lalo gumanda ang campaign namin,” he said.

Canlas said the team will resume training after a two-week rest.

“Iibahin ko ang mindset ng mga fencers, Olympic dream na,” he said.

Canlas said he would push his fencers to qualify for the Olympics, adding a strong team would be selected early next year to train for the SEAG in 2019 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.