June 25, 2024

Pinay fencer Sam Catantan recalls ACL injury, tough Paris 2024 journey

Pinay fencer Sam Catantan recalls ACL injury, tough Paris 2024 journey
Sam Catantan became the 12th Filipino to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. | Photo: Paolo Del Rosario

Pinay fencer Sam Catantan wasn't supposed to be here in the first place. 

Until she was. 

 The former UAAP standout tore her ACL and settled for a silver medal in the 2023 Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, putting a dent in her quest for an Olympic berth.

A year later, Catantan became the first fencer from the Philippines to qualify for the Summer Games, after striking gold in the 2024 Asia-Oceanic Zonal Olympic Qualifier for women’s foil in UAE last month. 

“I was very emotional po nung nanalo ako. Hindi po ako talaga makapaniwala na we actually made it po, na we’re sending a Filipina fencer in Paris 2024,” said 22-year-old Cantantan in a one-on-one interview with Petro Gazz Angels’ Dzi Gervacio on Pilipinas Live's Starting Lineup.


“Galing po akong injury so 10 months ago, we didn’t know that I’m going to make it in that tournament. I’m very blessed and thankful for the path that we’re able to get to that spot, ” she added.



Looking back on her gruesome injury, the current team captain of the Penn State University Fencing Team felt devastated knowing that the amount of time she will be taking off to recuperate will certainly affect her chance of qualifying for the Olympics. 


 “When I tore my ACL during the SEA Games in Cambodia, talagang umiyak na po ako ng sobra. This year was very important kasi Olympic year and starting April 2023-2024, ‘yan po yung Olympic season ng fencing. May mga tournament po na pwedeng maka-accumulate ng points para maka-qualify sa Olympics."


Sam could have just conceded the gold match for the women's individual foil outright. Instead, she stood up on the piste to make sure her presence was felt before settling for the silver.

"Nung napunit yung ACL ko po, nawala na po 'yung chance ko to make it through [the Olympics] without joining the qualification tournament. Hindi ko rin po inexpect na possible po ako umabot this Olympic qualifying po this April.”


The task was daunting for Catantan after recovering from that traumatic event.

She admitted that she wasn’t expecting much from the tournament, seeing world No. 34 Hong Se-na of Korea as the overwhelming favorite in the field.

“Ang expected po talaga na mag-go-gold ay 'yung fencer from Korea [Hong Se-na],  kasi po she has the highest ranking coming into the tournament. Before going to the semifinals, I was really nervous kasi as much as possible gusto ko po iwasan 'yung pinakamataas. Pero I had no control.”

As the stars aligned, she not only faced Hong in the semifinals but also stunned her South Korean counterpart, 15-3. Catantan went on to buck an injury scare in the final round en route to nipping Kazakhstan’s Sofiya Aktayeva, 15-14, in the final round. 

[ALSO READ: Sam Catantan is first Filipino fencer in the Olympics in 32 years]

In the end, Catantan extended her gratitude to the people who stood by her side and helped her become the first Filipino Fencer to earn an Olympic slot since Walter Torres competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games.

“Grabe din po yung binigay na suporta sakin ng family ko, friends, teammates and buong fencing community sa Pilipinas. I would not make it to Paris 2024 [without them]. But I’m very grateful po na nandito po tayo [maka qualify sa Olympics].”

[ALSO READ: Paris Olympics-bound EJ Obiena gets honest on 'tough' quest for first Olympic pole vault medal]