Teenage sensations Samantha Kyle Catantan and Maxine Isabel Esteban shone brightest for the Philippine side as they conspired solidly in pulling off a landmark gold medal finish in the recent 2018 Akari Asian U23 Fencing Championship at Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.

The 16-year-old Catantan and 17-year-old Maxine Esteban teamed up with Justine Gail Tinio and Wilhelmina Lozada in finishing on top of the women’s team foil event of the Asian tourney organized by the Philippine Fencing Association and sponsored by Akari Lighting and Technology Corporation.

Catantan, the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games silver medalist, and international multi-medalist Esteban both claimed as victims Yu Ching Kuan and Lee Areta in leading the Philippines to a 45-41 win over Hong Kong in the final.

The Philippines earlier defeated Southeast Asian heavyweight Thailand in the eliminations and, 45-23, and upset Asian powerhouse Korea, 45-39, in the semifinal en route to the first-ever top podium finish in the Asian U23 since its inception in 2011.

“Kyle and Maxine are some of the products of our long long-term program.  They started playing at a young age through our grassroots program.  We have more young players on the rise in partnership with major collegiate leagues which have adopted our sports and we are gearing up for more achievements in the years to come,” said Philippine Fencing Association secretary-general Rene Gacuma.

The golden finish, first time for the Philippines in the Asian level, capped the milestone feat by the Philippines that also bagged a pair of individual bronze medal courtesy of Nathaniel Perez and Catantan in the men’s and women’s foil event, respectively.

“Sobrang hirap bago naming nagawa ito. We will do more because our focus is the Olympics and not just the SEA Games next year. Foreign coaches and more foreign exposure will further boost our performance,” said national coach Rolando “Amat” Canlas.

After drawing a bye in the first round, Catantan smashed Kuan Yu Ching of Hongkong, 15-3, in the next round, then beat Yang Chin Man of Taipei reach the semifinals where she bowed to eventual gold medalist Shin Kyujung of Korea.

Perez, 22, gave the Philippines something to crow about in the opening day of the competition by claiming a bronze medal owing to his victories over Saleem Ghaith of Iraq and compatriot Shaw Nicollei Felipe to reach the medal round.

The Philippines women’s foil team that took the gold in the 2018 Akari Asian Under-23 Fencing Championship recently at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. (From left to right are coach Rolando “Amat” Canlas Jr., Wilhelmina Lozada, Justine Gail Tinio, Samantha Catantan and Maxine Esteban.

The three-time UAAP fencing Most Valuable Player bowed in the semifinals to Korea’s Hwang Booyeong, who eventually clinched the gold medal.

The weeklong tourney drew 15 participating countries that included Kazakhstan, Thailand, Japan, Kuwait, Chinese Taipei, Hongkong, Australia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Korea, Malaysia, Iraq, Brunei, Mongolia and India and host Philippines.

Powerhouse Korea again dominated with a haul of four gold, five silver and seven bronze medals. Hongkong followed with four gold, three silver medals and bronze. Kazakhstan placed third with a medal tally of 3-1-3 tally. The Philippines 1 gold-2 silver finish was good for fourth place.

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