One step at a time for Sam Catantan in attaining Olympic dream

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 4) – Top Filipino fencer Samantha Catantan will take it one step at a time in achieving her elusive dream to represent the country in the Olympics.

In the virtual Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, the 19-year-old Catantan acknowledged she needs to further improve her game to win in every bout.

“I can compete with other fencers, as shown in the recent Olympic qualifiers. In the end, it all boils down to who’s more confident and heart to win,” said Catantan. “If you want to be a champion, act like a champion.”

Catantan, who now plays for Penn State University in the US NCAA, bared she was not satisfied with her bronze medal finish in the recent Olympic qualifiers.

“I regret that I wasn’t able to make it to the finals. I know that I can make it but it’s very different when your opponents are more exposed in competitions. It just boiled down on who’s got a better game,” the former University of the East high school fencer said.

Singapore’s Amita Berthier grabbed the lone Olympic slot in the Tashkent meet after defeating Uzbekistan’s Yana Alborova in the women’s foil finals. Alborova beat Catantan in the semifinals.

RELATED: Catantan, 2 other PH fencers miss Olympic berths

National team head coach Amat Canlas said he supports Catantan’s step-by-step approach in charting the country’s return in Olympic fencing competitions. The Philippines last sent a fencer to the Olympics in 1992, when Walter Torres competed in the men’s foil event.

“First, we must find the right kid that has a potential to play in the Olympics. Our next goal is to qualify for the Olympics, followed by winning a medal. This is not a midnight transformation for our fencing team,” said Canlas.

Canlas shared he envisions the Philippine fencing team to achieve the gains of the national weightlifting team, who focused on one athlete in Hidilyn Diaz before developing other weightlifters who can win medals in international tournaments.

With Catantan’s emergence as the country’s best fencing bet, Canlas said they need more female fencers to boost the national team.

“I hope we can discover a younger fencer, especially in epee and sabre, who possesses the same grit as Samantha,” Canlas said.

For now, Catantan said she will focus on her goal to win her first Southeast Asian Games gold and get more exposure in the United States before turning her sights to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"I am already at that level. It doesn't mean that just because they are more experienced, I can't beat them," Catantan said.