SINGAPORE: In what has been a momentous year for Singaporean foil fencer Amita Berthier, the 16-year-old added another feather to her cap on Monday (Nov 20) after finishing second at a Junior World Cup event in Guatemala.
Amita was unbeaten in the competition, sweeping aside rivals in the poules and the knock-out rounds before falling to eventual gold medallist Lydia Casillas 15-11 in the final.
In doing so, the 2017 SEA Games gold medallist is now the first Singaporean to have medalled at an individual event at the Junior World Cup.
It is not the first time that Amita has faced 19-year-old Casillas. She lost to the Mexican in the same competition last year where she finished sixth, while Casillas went on to win silver in 2016.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Amita said that she was "overwhelmed" by the extent of her good form.
“It’s definitely a milestone in my fencing career,” she said. "It’s definitely a motivation to want to make it to the podium more often in more Junior World Cups in the future."
She added: "Overall I’m really happy with my fencing yesterday and the fact that I managed to fence well throughout, so it was a good competition."
AN EVENTFUL 2017
Having also won bronze in the World Junior and Cadet Championships in April, as well as progressing to the last-32 of the senior World Fencing Championships, Amita is already looking forward to ending 2017 on a high.
“For the rest of the year, I have two more competitions coming up. One is going to be a senior competition in Portland,” she said. "The other is a Junior World Cup competition in Havana, which is for the Under-20 age-group."
Amita, who turns 17 in December, added: “I’m pleased that this year is one of my best years in fencing so far. I wasn’t expecting this year to be good for me … it could definitely have been better but I’m satisfied with the results I’ve gotten so far.
“My form has been stable - even if I didn’t make the podium, I got solid results. For me personally I reached my expectations - so I would say that this year was the best ever.
“I want to continually do better next year, as it’s a different level … I’ve aged out of the Under-17 category, so I’m moving into a different category where the competitors are different.
“I’m the youngest in the Under-20s right now and it’s definitely a challenge I love.”
CLIMBING THE RANKINGS
Even though the year is winding down, the fencing season will not be over until early next year, according to her coach Ralf Bissdorf, who trains Amita at the Marx Academy in Boston.
“There are eight destinations for the Junior World Cup series and we’re only going to go to six. We will skip two destinations, because for the world rankings only six results for the Junior World Cup count towards the standings,” he said.
“You can go to eight and then take the best six results, or you can go for just six competitions.
"Amita has already done three of them, and so she’s going for three more. There’s one in Cuba in December, and another in January, followed by another in February.”
Amita will next be competing at the North American Cup in Portland, which is a senior-level event.
According to coach Bissdorf, it is important for Amita to be competing in such high-level events to help her develop her skills further.
"It’s definitely important to be competing in such high-level competitions. When I was coaching in Singapore, my task was to help tackle the Asian level," said the German coach.
"Ultimately the world stage is where you want to compete at. These competitions are our focus and our current goal is to do well in this Junior World Cup.
"She has moved up from 18 to 12 in the world rankings and we’ll try to climb it a little more."