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Monday, May 20, 2024

Esteban closes in on being first female PH Olympic fencer

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Filipino-Ivorian fencer Maxine Esteban will compete in a final Olympic-qualifying tournament in Washington DC on March 15, looking to officially book a ticket to the Summer Games slated in Paris this year.

Esteban, who switched federations after being controversially dropped by the Philippine Fencing Association, currently leads the race for the direct qualification spot for the African continental zone.

Esteban is also currently the second-ranked Asian among female foil athletes in the Olympic qualification ranking. Interestingly, that means she would have been a solid bet for one of two Asian continental slots to the Paris Games and could have been the fifth Olympian for the Philippines had she not switched federations due to what she said was an “unfair and unjust” treatment of her by the PFA.

“I will continue to work hard and hopefully take back my dream that people tried to take away from me,” said Esteban, an eight-time Philippine champion and multi-World Cup medalist, who is looking to be the first female Filipino fencer to qualify for the Olympics.

A strong showing in the Washington qualifier would officially hand Esteban an Olympic berth outright without her having to go through a wild card tournament, which is reserved for countries with no fencers directly qualifying in the sport yet.

It can be recalled that Esteban was excluded from the national team purportedly because she skipped the Philippine qualifiers. However, Esteban provided documents showing the PFA had excused her from the national trials because she suffered an ACL injury while representing the country in the World Championship in Egypt.

“Not only was I dropped for a reason they excused me from, but the rule was not applied to everyone in the national team,” she said then. “That’s why I really worked extra hard this past year. I want to repay Côte d’Ivoire for giving me not just a home but a shot to retake the things I worked so hard for that they tried to tear away from me,” Esteban, who is currently ranked No. 37 in the world, added.

Esteban’s transfer meant no fencer representing the Philippines is on the list for any direct qualification spot. The PFA will send its top-ranked fencers in the hope of getting a wild card slot this April.

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