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High hopes for Pinoy fencers

Jose & Nicanor
Jose (left) and Nicanor: Brightest hopes for Olympics ticket.

READY and confident.

That’s how Philippine Fencing Association president Richard Gomez and national coach Amat Canlas described the national fencing team on the eve of their departure for the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on April 25-26.

Our national fencers will surely give their best. Lahat ng mga players natin na pupunta sa Tashkent, nakapag-handa talaga ng husto dito sa bubble natin sa Ormoc kaya tiwala tayo,” said Gomez during the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom recently.

Gaya nga ng sinasabi ko, sa fencing kung minsan pag maganda ang gising mo, maganda ang galaw mo. Pag ganun, posibleng makuha nila yung Olympic slot. That’s what we are praying for right now. Yung pag dating nila sa Tashkent, makalaro sila ng mabuti.

Although he will not be able to join the team in Tashkent due to previous commitments, Gomez expressed confidence that Canlas and the coaching staff can get the job done.

After more than two months of bubble training in Ormoc, alam na ng bawat isa kung ano ang kailangan gawin para makuha yun goal namin,” explained Gomez during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).

A multi-awarded fencer himself, Gomez said all five fencers — Jylyn Nicanor, Noelito Jose, Hanniel Abella, CJ Concepcion and Nathaniel Perez — have what it takes to win and book a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

Nicanor bagged the gold medal in the women’s individual sabre, while Jose took the bronze in the men’s individual epee during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila.

Abella was a member of the four-player women’s team epee which also captured the gold. She also took the silver in the individual epee.

Concepcion earned the silver in the men’s individual sabre.

He said all five fencers trained hard for the OQT along with other members of the national team during their bubble training in Ormoc under Canlas.

Canlas said the Filipino fencers are eager and excited to compete.

Lahat sila magagaling, lahat sila nakapag-handa. They were able to regain their form and condition after two months of intense training,” Canlas told People’s Tonight.

He said the Samantha Catantan, who placed third in the US NCAA Fencing Championship as a freshman at Penn State University, will also join the OQT.

Sam is also ready. She did very well in both the US NCAA where she went undefeated in pool play and the junior/cadet world championships in Egypt,” added Canlas, himself a two-time gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games.

“I also told her that it’s OK if she didn’t get the gold medal in the US NCAA, or made a podium finish in the world junior/cadet. The most important tournament is the OQT.

Canlas said Nicanor and Concepcion will represent the country in the women’s individual sabre.

Catantan and Perez will compete in the women’s and men’s foil, while Jose and Abella will try their hands in the epee category.

Both Gomez and Canlas admitted the Filipinos will be facing must -win situation in Tahskent “since only the best fencer for each weapon in men’s and women’s will earn the remaining spots in the Tokyo Olympics.

The other Tokyo Olympics slots have already been been taken through the world ranking and OQTs in other continents.

Kaya talagang mabigat ang laban nila but they have to win all their games pagdating sa direct eliminations. Dapat sila mag-champion,” said Gomez.

Hindi ko alam kung ano ang rank ng mga countries na meron nang Olympic spot. But I’m thinking Japan, China and Korea, na meron nang Olympic spot. There should be at least 11-12 countries na makakalaban natin, including yun mga former Soviet republics.

Canlas said Catantan, who will be flying from the zzuS, will join the national team during a stopover in Istambul Turkey.

Assisting Canlas is deputy coach Arman Bernal.

The last Filipino fencer to qualify in the Olympics waa Walter Torres during the 1992 Barcelona Games in Spain.