Pinay fencer Esteban earns Paris Olympics slot but will represent Cote de’Ivoire

FENCER MAXINE ESTEBAN — AUGUSTO BIZZI / FIE

FENCER MAXINE ESTEBAN has clinched a quota place in the Paris Olympics after her recent strong performance in the 2024 Absolute Fencing Gear FIE Foil Grand Prix in Washington D. C., United States.

But the 23-year-old former Ateneo stalwart, however, will represent Cote de’Ivoire after switching federations last year.

The World No. 37 in foil bested South Korean Kim Hyunjin, 15-13, before falling to Slovakian Adeline Senic, 15-9.

She wound up 83rd in all but earned enough points to snatch a slot for the African continental zone.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said Ms. Esteban via social media Saturday night.

“This journey is truly a testimony of God’s faithfulness. Today (Saturday), I am in awe of His love for me and I am grateful He has carried me through. For all the second chances, opened windows, miraculous feats, and generous provisions, thank you Heavenly Father,” she added.

Ms. Esteban later said she hopes her feat would serve as an example for the aspiring young guns to follow.

“The significance of the Olympic stage, for an OLY (Olympian), is not the event. It is what it symbolizes, unwavering passion and discipline. May I inspire those who dream and have at one point almost given up, to persist amidst storms and rough waters,” she said.

While she is now representing a different nation, Ms. Esteban still acknowledged the nation that hone and shaped what she is now — the Philippines.

“This is for Cote d’Ivoire, the country that embraced me, believed in me and supported me all the way, and for the Philippines, the country my heart will always beat proud,” she said.

There is one Filipino fencer though that also has a strong chance of making it to Paris where she could join Ms. Esteban and the Philippines’ EJ Obiena of pole-vault, Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan of gymnastics and Eumir Marcial, Nesthy Petecio and Aira Villegas of boxing — Sam Catantan.

The 22-year-old Ms. Catantan, a Penn State University standout, will vye for that dream Paris slot as she competes in the Olympic Qualification Tournament set April 27 to 28 in Dubai, the final doorway to the quadrennial games. — Joey Villar