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Esteban Secures Gold in European U23 Circuit

Maxine Esteban continues to prove her worth, this time hammering out a victory that showed just how much the country was missing.

The Filipino-Ivorian fencer turned back Germany’s Luca Sarah Holland-Cunz, 15-13, in the final of the International Handel Cup European U23 Circuit Championship on late Sunday evening in Halle, Germany.

“I’m so so happy with my performance,” Esteban wrote in a social media post. “Thank you to my teammates for cheering me on, my coach for believing in me, and to the Cote d’Ivoire federation for supporting me all the way!! I couldn’t have done this without you guys!”

Esteban, the highest ranked Filipino-born fencer in the world, had earlier switched nationalities after what she described as her “unfair” removal from the national team late last year. Freed from the stress of being picked on by her national federation, the former eight-time national champion in the Philippines has shown marked improvement in her form, with strong finishes in major European fencing tournaments as she makes a bid for the Olympics.

Tense finale

In a tense finale in Halle, Esteban seized a 13-9 lead before holding off the challenge of the 19-year-old German to win the gold of the women’s individual foil in the prestigious tournament that featured 96 fencers.

Esteban, ranked 41st at the start of the tournament before taking the 24th seed after progressing to the round of 32, took down two members of the German national team on her way to the title.

She ousted Czech Republic’s Katerina Illekova, the ninth seed, in the round of 32, 15-6. Esteban then defeated eighth seed Marie Hofler of Germany, 11-10, in the round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals.

There, she scored a major upset, trouncing top seed Carlotta Sophi Morandi, 14-13. Morandi and Hofler are members of the German national squad. Esteban, the former Ateneo star in the UAAP, then took control early in the semifinals and bundled out Larissa Evers, 15-8, to assure herself of at least a silver.

In the final, Esteban went ahead early before Holland-Cunz stormed back late in the match to make things interesting. However, the former Philippine champion kept her nerves and sealed the gold medal conquest.

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