Interviewed by Siti Nuraishah, Activties Department, East Campus
Samantha is a Grade 11 student at UWCSEA East. She has been assisting to coach the Fencing after-school activity as well. She has competed both locally in Singapore, and have traveled to other countries in Asia (MAS, PH, TW, THA, JOR, HKG, CN, AUS, and Europe (Denmark, Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Poland) to compete. She will be competing in the Asian Cadet and Junior Championships 2020 in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the World Cadet and Junior Fencing Championships in Utah, USA. Let's cheer her on!
How long have you been involved in your sport / activity?
I have been doing fencing for 3 years. Before that, I was a gymnast for 6 years.
Did you play or represent in your sport/activity? To what level?
I currently represent the Philippines in fencing; and compete at the international level, including the Asian and World Cadet (U17) and Junior (U20) Championships. I fence against other top fencers from all across the world.
What was your training schedule like? Did you practice every day?
I train around 5 times a week, around 2.5 hours each session; both with a group and private one-on-one lessons with my coach. I train both at a club and at the SG National Training Center, together with the SG national team.
What is your fondest memory of playing / being involved in this activity?
Something that is memorable for me is talking to the middle school about fencing and going out of your comfort zone. I remember the kids being really excited and interested in the sport, and the fact that I brought in the mask and weapon. I was also being recognized by younger kids in school as a fencer, as random kids would approach me asking if I was talking in their assembly. It shows I had an impact on them and hopefully inspired them to try something new.
Another aspect of fencing that is very memorable is that I am also very fortunate to be able to travel abroad to many different cities internationally. Being at par with European fencers, and not being daunted by them is something really motivating for me as a fencer and as a person.
What unexpected obstacles have you had to overcome this in your sport / activity?
One major obstacle I had to overcome was becoming more mentally strong and focused. The physical aspect of fencing is important, but I feel that mentality is what makes or breaks a match. I learned that having a weak mindset causes your body to also become weaker, negatively affecting your performance. Through competing more locally and abroad, I was able to gain more exposure and learn how to have more of a winning and fighting mentality.
Why are you interested in this activity?
I really like how unpredictable fencing can be, no one bout is the exact same. I’m also really interested in how much strategy and tactics are involved; fencing is known as ‘physical chess’, and so I find analyzing opponents, and figuring out the best way to win, really interesting.
What are your 3 greatest successes to date?
Gold at the Philippine Cadet (U17) Championships 2019
Bronze at the Singapore Asian Cadet Circuit 2019
61st/161 fencers at the Junior (U20) World Cup in Udine, Italy. Many high ranked European fencers were participating.
What is most satisfying about your work right now?
One thing I really love about teaching the kids is seeing how excited they get over holding the weapons and wearing the masks. It takes me back to when I first discovered fencing and how fun I found it.
What is the greatest challenge you have ever had to overcome in your career?
A challenge that I am still overcoming is maintaining a fighter mindset as a fencer. Being strong from the early morning start of a competition to the very end at night, is a very draining thing for all athletes. Staying mentally strong is definitely a challenge, but one that I am willing to work hard for.
What advice would you give to our students?
Find your passion, and work hard for what you want. Believing in yourself is extremely powerful and will take you far. When I started my fencing journey, I always doubted myself, and no matter how hard I practiced, I did not perform as well as I expected. Learning to believe in myself was a major turning point for my career.
Can you give us three words that best describe how you feel about your profession?
Inspiring, Motivation, Hardwork
Who is the icon that has influenced you the most?
Someone I really look up to is Sergey Danilov, who was a coach for the US national team. I met him at a fencing summer camp in New York; and throughout the days I was with him, he opened a whole new perspective on fencing for me, including new strategies, and helping me build confidence and a strong mentality.