By WAYLON GALVEZ
Filipino fencing sensation Sam Catantan of Penn State University considers her first US NCAA Fencing Championship something extraordinary.
The freshman went undefeated in the preliminary bouts by going 20-0 in the women’s foil event, and although she fell short in her title bid, her third place finish last Sunday in Pennsylvania only proved that Catantan has what it takes to compete at a high level tournament.
“This experience was really memorable for me,” the 19-year-old Catantan told Manila Bulletin-Tempo 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 am miles and 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 Dec. 31, 2020.
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.
She was recruited by 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 – becoming the first ‘homegrown’ Filipino to play for a Division 1 school 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,” 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.
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