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Depleted fencers keep hopes high

HANGZHOU, China — Despite the absence of marquee players, the national fencing team remains optimistic over their chances in the 19th Asian Games here.

National fencing team head coach Ramil Ederiano said they are keeping their hopes high despite the absence of Southeast Asian Games standouts Samantha Catantan and Maxine Esteban.

Catantan, who competes for Penn State University, suffered a knee injury that prompted her to withdraw from the gold medal match of the women’s foil event of the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia.

Esteban, for her part, bolted out of the national team to join Ivory Coast as a naturalized player.

With Catantan and Esteban not around, SEA Games silver medalist Noelito Jose will banner the Filipino fencers when he competes in the men’s epee event together with Ivy Dinoy (women’s epee), Samuel Tranquilan (men’s foil), Jylyn Nicanor (women’s sabre), Miggy Bautista (men’s foil), and Juliana Gomez (women’s epee), the daughter of Asian Games chief of mission Richard Gomez.

“A lot of individual medalists will join like Noelito,” said Edriano, whose wards will start competing for the 12 gold medals at stake on Sunday at the Hangzhou Dianzi University Gymnasium.

“They have been beating Asian champions. They have a good chance of making it to the medal round of individual events.”

Edriano said countries like Japan, Hong Kong and host China are tipped to dominate the tournament.

“There are a lot of strong countries here,” Edriano said, adding that South Korea dominated the fencing in the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta with six gold, three silver and six bronze medals.

“South Korea is currently a powerhouse as well as Hong Kong. Korea has former Olympic medalists and Japan currently has world champions with them.”

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