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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Going beyond the fence

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How rejection becomes a redirection for Maxine Esteban

In sports, the scoreboard doesn’t always reflect the true measure of victory. Winning isn’t just about collecting trophies or earning titles, it’s about embracing challenges, learning from setbacks, and transforming missed opportunities into stepping stones toward growth.

That’s exactly what Filipina athlete Maxine Esteban exemplifies. Her journey to the Paris Olympics proves the power of resilience and standing up when you fall. An Olympic fencing athlete, Maxine’s path has been anything but linear.

Her foray into fencing began at the age of 12, inspired by Lindsay Lohan’s character in the 1998 film The Parent Trap. Fascinated by the sport’s elegant-looking and striking fencing outfit, Maxine transitioned from figure skating—a sport she had to abandon due to the closure of the most accessible skating rink at a local mall. This early disruption in her athletic pursuits set a precedent for how Maxine would handle future challenges – with adaptability and determination.

Before fencing, Maxine dabbled in other sports, but it was fencing that captured her heart.

“I tried to switch to other sports like taekwondo and swimming,” she shared.

Despite her talent and passion for the sport, her journey was filled with obstacles. In a shocking turn of events, Maxine was removed from the Philippine national fencing team following an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament tear). Despite her best efforts to communicate her readiness to return after surgery, she was excluded without explanation, a decision that left her heartbroken.

Maxine’s exclusion from the national team was particularly baffling given her impressive track record. She had consistently ranked among the top four fencers in the Philippines. Her contributions to the sport were significant, including being an eight-time national champion and a multiple SEA Games medalist.

Maxine (center) with her loving and supportive parents

Despite her disappointment, Maxine’s story is one of triumph over adversity. Her removal from the Philippine team became a catalyst for her most significant redirection yet—joining the national team of the Ivory Coast.

This decision, driven by both necessity and a determination to excel, was truly life-changing. In just a few months, she not only earned a place on the Ivorian team but also won a bronze medal at the African Championships. Her rapid ascent continued as she secured direct qualification for the Paris Olympics.

Maxine’s journey is unique. She represents both the Philippines, her home country, and the Ivory Coast, the nation that welcomed her with open arms. Her dual representation is a reminder of how embracing new opportunities can lead to unprecedented success. She now holds the distinction of being the first homegrown Filipino fencer to secure a spot in the Paris Olympics, while also bringing pride to the Ivory Coast.

“I get so much support from both the Philippines and the Ivory Coast teams,” Maxine beamed.

Maxine’s achievements in fencing are mirrored by her academic excellence. Her educational background is as stellar as her athletic career. She not only graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a BS Management Engineering degree but also summa cum laude with a BA Applied Sciences degree from the University of Pennsylvania. These accomplishments reflect her dedication and discipline, qualities that have undoubtedly fueled her success in fencing.

As Maxine prepares for the Paris Olympics, her outlook remains positive and focused. She views her participation as an honor and is determined to enjoy the moment, free from the pressures that often accompany such competitions. Supported by her family and empowered by her recent struggle, Maxine approaches the Olympics with a sense of gratitude and excitement. 

“I feel very honored and overwhelmed to be competing in the Paris Olympics,” she said.

Maxine’s forced departure from the Philippine team, though painful, propelled her toward new horizons. Her ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity is a powerful message to all athletes—and indeed, anyone facing setbacks—that rejection can serve as a redirection or a launch pad for something greater.

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