Singapore fencer Amita Berthier carried her good form from 2018 into the new year, clinching a bronze medal in the Udine leg of the International Fencing Federation's (FIE) Junior World Cup in Italy yesterday.
It was the third consecutive podium finish for the 18-year-old at a Junior World Cup leg, after winning gold in Guatemala in November and a silver in Cuba last month.
"I've been more consistent compared with maybe two or three years ago," Berthier, who lost 15-10 to eventual winner Serena Rossini of Italy in the semi-finals, told The Straits Times in a phone interview.
"For me, that's very good, because any good result shows that my hard work is paying off.
"This competition is significant for me because, down here, we had the top countries like Italy, France, Germany and Russia, and so to make a top-three finish is another milestone for my career."
Berthier did not have an easy ride to winning her bronze medal. She had to get past home favourite Martina Favaretto in the round of 32, after the Italian surprisingly lost two of her six poule matches.
Berthier, ranked No. 2 in the junior world rankings, saw off the 17-year-old world No. 3 15-13.
In the quarter-finals, she faced Hungary's Nora Hajas, who had beaten her in the semi-finals of the women's foil event at the World Junior and Cadet Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria two years ago.
The Singaporean, who studies at the University of Notre Dame, showed how much she has improved since their previous meeting by beating the 18-year-old 15-8.
Berthier will next turn her attention to the Senior World Cup in Poland this weekend.
She will spend two days visiting her grandparents in Lyon, France, before heading to Katowice, hoping to improve on her performance last year when she ranked 100th out of 184 fencers. This time, she is hoping to secure at least a top-64 finish.
"My target is to qualify for the second day (the final 64) of the competition, fence against whoever is in my way, and try to beat them," she said.
Another Singaporean fencer, Denyse Chan, also did well with a top-16 placing in Italy over the weekend. The 15-year-old beat Italians Margherita Lorenzi (15-9) and Martina Manzoli (15-9) in the round of 64 and round of 32 respectively, before losing to Berthier 15-6 in the last 16.
"I came into this competition simply hoping for the best, so I never expected such a result," said the Raffles Girls' School student, who achieved a top-64 finish in her previous World Cup outing in London in November.
"It was extremely surreal and it showed me that all my efforts from 2018 did not go to waste.
"It was an exhilarating experience and certainly a great start to the year."