Philippine Fencing Association chief and Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez, left, with national fencing team head coach Amat Canlas. (Photo from Amat Canlas)

Philippine Fencing Association (PFA) President Richard Gomez is keeping his fingers crossed that the Asian Qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics will push through as scheduled in Seoul, South Korea.

Gomez expressed his hopes as five of six Filipino fencers continue to prepare in a bubble training camp in Ormoc City – where he is the mayor – for the April 16-17 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

“Of course, our hope is for the qualifying meet to happen. Because if not, I don’t know what the IF (international federation) would do to determine the spots for the Asian continent,” said Gomez in a telephone interview Wednesday with Manila Bulletin.

Gomez’s response on this query came a day after organizers called off boxing’s World Qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics in Paris as a safety precaution against the rise of COVID-19 cases in Europe.

Officials of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) will meet this month, and the Asian Qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics is likely pinned on the agenda – whether to move it to a later date or cancel it altogether.

The five fencers training in Ormoc City are Jylyn Nicanor and Christian Jester Concepcion in the men’s and women’s saber category, Hanniel Abella and Noelito Jose in epee, and Nathaniel Perez in foil.

Nicanor won gold medal in the women’s foil event in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games here in 2019, while Concepcion and Abella earned silver medals in their respective events. Jose, meanwhile, settled with a bronze medal.

Samantha Catantan, a bronze medalist in the biennial meet, is also part of the national team in the OQT, though the 19-year-old reigning Asian under-23 champion is currently competing in the US as a member of Penn State University, a Division 1 school in the NCAA.

Gomez said canceling the OQT is unlikely, as some 30 fencers will try to earn that one spot per category.

A total of 12 Tokyo Olympic slots will be decided in the Asian Qualifiers as categorized in the three weapons – foil, epee and sabre for men’s and women’s individual and team events.

“In boxing I think they have world ranking, so they can decide on the remaining spots. But in fencing, I don’t see it happening because 30 fencers will try to win that one Olympic spot for Asia (each division),” said Gomez.

“If they cancel it… I don’t know what’s going to be the selection process. That’s why I’m hoping for the OQT to push through. Should they decide to cancel I think training here should continue.”

Amat Canlas, head coach of the fencing national team, said that it is not just the fencers preparing for the OQT who are benefiting from the bubble training camp, but also the other members of the national team who are likely to be included in the SEA Games later this year in Vietnam.

“That’s what I told our president (Gomez), we have nothing to lose here in this training camp because all we need to do, if no Asian Qualifiers, is to shift the focus and mindset of our fencers to the SEA Games,” said Canlas.

“Majority of the national team members that won medals for the country in the previous SEA Games are here in Ormoc City. They play scrimmage (pre-fencing) with fencers preparing for the OQT, in a way, they also gain experience.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (