Top PH fencer Maxine Esteban switches nationalities, set to represent Ivory Coast

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(CNN Philippines, June 1) — Determined to earn a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics, top Filipino fencer Maxine Esteban has decided to switch nationalities and represent the Ivory Coast, a country in West Africa. 

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 that the 22-year-old athlete can fulfill her dream of competing in the 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,” Gomez added.

The FIE agreed to PFA's request as Esteban’s profile on the FIE website can now be seen with the Ivory Coast flag.

She is also seeking the same clearance from the Philippine Olympic Committee (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 to POC President Bambol Tolentino.

Esteban is the highest-ranked Filipino fencer in the world at No. 84. She is a former UAAP Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and champion with the Ateneo de Manila University.

Esteban becomes the latest Filipino athlete to switch nationalities following chess star Wesley So who now plays for the United States, and golfer Yuka Saso and volleyball stalwart Jaja Santiago who both compete for Japan.