After losing her spot on the Philippine team earlier this year due to an injury, top Filipino fencer Maxine Esteban has decided to switch nationalities and represent the West African nation of Ivory Coast to secure her 2024 Paris Olympics dream.
Having gained the approval of the Philippine Fencing Association (PFA), Esteban’s transfer request has been submitted to the International Fencing Federation (FIE), accompanied by a plea to waive the standard three-year residency requirement. The 22-year-old athlete hopes that this expedited process will allow her to fully pursue her Olympic aspirations without any delays.
Richard Gomez, President of the PFA, expressed the association’s support for Esteban’s nationality change. In a letter addressed to Nathalie Rodriguez, CEO of FIE, Gomez stated,“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.”
The FIE granted the PFA’s request, with the athlete’s profile on the federation’s official website now displaying the flag of Ivory Coast.
Esteban now awaits the clearance from the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to finalize her transfer. In a letter addressed to POC President Bambol Tolentino, Esteban said, “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.”
While people online were happy for Esteban, some noted that her departure adds to a growing list of talented athletes leaving the country to represent other flags, highlighting the generally poor levels of support the Philippine’s gives to its top sports competitors..
“We really haven’t learned our lesson from Wesley So,” one said, referring to the Filipino chess grandmaster who now represents the United States as one of the highest-ranked grandmasters in the world.
“I heard about Maxine Esteban moving countries as a Fencer. As a former fencer, i can’t blame her. There isn’t much support for athletes back in the Philippines,” another wrote.
Esteban is the highest-ranked Filipino fencer, currently ranked at no. 84 in the world. She has amassed accolades such as UAAP Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and championship titles during her time at the Ateneo de Manila University.
She follows in the footsteps of fellow Filipino athletes such as So, and golfing star Yuka Saso and volleyball standout Jaja Santiago, who both compete for Japan.