TOKYO: Behind the fencing masks were the faces of two friends.
They shared a hug before and after the bout. But for the three minutes they faced off on the piste, there was no time for friendships.
And on Sunday (Jul 25), the younger fell to the older; the rookie to the veteran; the Singaporean to the American.
At the Makuhari Messe Hall B, Amita Berthier lost 15-4 to world No 5 Lee Kiefer in the women’s individual foil event.
Seven years apart in age, the pair hail from the same university – Notre Dame in the United States. They are also mentored by the same coach.
“Normally during practice sessions – we are pretty close – I give her much of a stronger bout,” Berthier told reporters after the match.
“It’s kind of like 60/40 I would say but Lee is an amazing athlete. My goal today was just to go on this strip and just to give my best, fence my hardest.”
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Berthier, who is ranked 60th in the world, was making her Olympic debut against Kiefer, a three-time Olympian and multiple World Championships medalist.
In the table of 32 match-up, Kiefer raced to a 6-2 lead early on despite the Singaporean trying her best to get a foot in the game.
And the American would ultimately prove too strong for the 20-year-old.
“I feel like I fenced my hardest. I’m just unhappy that I didn't get to hit some of the touches that I was planning,” said Berthier.
“But on the other hand, she's an amazing, amazing fencer so I'm not super disappointed in my loss. I'm really grateful to be here.”
Berthier is Singapore's first female fencer to compete at the Olympics - compatriot Kiria Tikanah soon joined her - and was also the first local fencer to qualify outright for the event.
Berthier, who was previously the world’s top junior fencer, hopes to use the Games as a springboard to the next level, and is already eyeing Paris 2024.
“I’m fencing with the best in the world and I'm one of the youngest competitors in this event, so I should just move forward, watch these matches and learn why they are the best in the world and how one day I can become one of them,” she said.
“I really look up to Lee and so, hopefully, one day I'll reach her level.”
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