Maxine Esteban will continue pursuing her Olympic dreams, but this time with another country.
Esteban has switched nationalities and will represent Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), a West African nation with a rich French-colonial legacy where the top Filipino fencer in the world rankings will chase a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Philippine Fencing Association (PFA) has approved the transfer and has requested the international fencing federation (FIE) to waive the three-year residency rule so Esteban can pursue her hopes of competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“We support her change of nationality representation to Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) where she is also a naturalized citizen,” PFA president Richard Gomez wrote in a letter to FIE chief executive officer Nathalie Rodriguez.
“As we believe in and support the Olympic spirit that sports know no nationalities, we are happy for Maxine for her decision, and as such we are requesting for the FIE to waive the 3-year waiting period of her representation in Côte d’Ivoire so that she can continue, without interruption all training and participation in all FIE competitions, for her personal improvement and goal achievement,” Gomez added.
The FIE has agreed to the PFA request and Esteban is also seeking the same waiver from the POC.
“My immediate transfer will allow me to continue with my training and competitions without interruption, as well as share my skill and talent with a smaller fencing community in Cote d’Ivoire where I am now immersed,’’ Esteban wrote in a letter to POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.
Esteban is the highest-ranked Filipino fencer globally at No. 84 and is an eight-time national champion in women’s foil. The 22-year-old ace is also a four-time UAAP champion with Ateneo.
Ivory Coast approached Esteban on a possible transfer and the former world No. 16-ranked junior fencer has a history with the country, having already held clinics for young fencers there.
She has been active in the fencing community of Cote d’Ivoire for quite some time by holding clinics for children.
Esteban is scheduled to compete in the Coupe Du Monde and Coupe Du Monde Par Equipes in Tbilisi, Georgia this coming weekend.
Esteban was saddled by an ACL injury while representing the Philippines at the World Championships in Cairo, Egypt in July 2022. At that time, Esteban rose to No. 62 in the world, the highest ever reached by a Filipino fencer, before the injury broke her momentum under the tutelage of legendary coach Andrea Magro.
Esteban got the go-signal to return to training and competition five months after surgery.
In her first tournament since recovery, Esteban placed 120th out of 212 fencers in the World Cup in Paris early this year but finished best among Southeast Asian Games medalists who competed in the event.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank the Philippine Olympic Committee for all its support. I humbly ask for your endorsement of my transfer without conditions and support my newfound opportunity,’’ said Esteban.
Esteban will become the latest Filipino athlete naturalized by other countries for their sporting skills. Among them are chess star Wesley So with the United States and golfer Yuka Saso and volleyball star Jaja Santiago with Japan.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.