THE Philippines should pursue an extensive grassroots development program in fencing to discover more world-class athletes in the mold of 1992 Barcelona Olympics veteran Walter Torres.
Former national coach Rolando “Amat” Canlas Jr. claimed there are “many talented young fencers but that they need a strong program built around regular training and enough international exposure.”
“Dapat talaga maging consistent tayo sa ating mga programa, lalo na sa mga kabataan simula sa grassroots level,” said Canlas during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the Philippine Sports Commission Conference Hall in Vito Cruz, Manila last Tuesday.
“If we have a solid program for the grassroots, lalakas talaga ang mga bata. In one to two years, nasa national team na ang mga yan para sa Southeast Asian Games at Asian Games,” added Canlas during the weekly forum presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, MILO, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
“Lahat naman ng mga fencers pangarap ang makapasok sa Olympics at sundan ang yapak ni PSC Commissioner Walter,” added Canlas, referring to Torres.
Torres, now a commissioner of the PSC, was the last Filipino fencer to see action in the Olympics during the 1992 Barcelona Games in Spain. At that time, Torres earned an automatic spot after winning a gold medal in the SEA Games.
Canlas pointed to Noelito Jose and Samantha Catantan as the country’s brightest prospects to make it to the Olympics.
He said Jose, who competed in the World Championships in Italy alongside three other members of the current national team, and Catantan, who is still recovering from an left ACL injury she suffered during the Cambodia SEA Games in May, will see action in the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in April 2024.
Fencers around the world now need to go through qualifiers to get ranking FIE points, according to Canlas.
“As a fencer yan talaga ang pinaka-goal namin, makapag-laro sa Olympics,” said Catantan, 13, sister of national team members Samantha and Ysah who won four gold medals in the Burlington
International representing University of the East and Canlas Fencing.
Joining Canlas and Catantan during the forum are Louis Shoemaker of UE/CF, Antonio Manuel of Paref/CF, Faber Cabrera of Ateneo/CF, Enrico Fuentes Southridge/CF, Meagan Co Say of Republic Fencing, Miyake Capina of De La Salle Zobel, Zoe Atilano of CF and Nina Canlas of UE/CF.