The target was a spot in the top 16, but a sprained ankle looked as if it could scupper Amita Berthier's hopes at the Junior World Cup in Modling, Austria.
Showing great mental fortitude, the national foil fencer dug deep to finish sixth at the event on Saturday, a result that propelled her to a career-high second in the women's foil world junior rankings.
Amita has accumulated 110 points and is 61 points behind No. 1 Serena Rossini of Italy.
"I'm really happy to close the Junior World Cup season with a strong result and this latest ranking is affirmation that things are going in the right direction. My coach and I have specific goals for the season and, so far, we're on track," said 17-year-old Amita, who entered the final leg ranked fifth in the world.
Her mother Uma was proud of her ranking achievement but was happier with the mettle she showed to finish sixth in Austria.
"She was looking at making the top 16 in Modling, and to move into sixth position was a big bonus for her, especially considering that she sprained her ankle quite badly in training a week before," Berthier told The Straits Times yesterday.
SOURCE OF PRIDE
It is a morale booster for her, but what's important for me is her journey - to know she can set goals, put in the work required to get to where she wants to be. That makes me really proud.
UMA BERTHIER, on the ranking of her daughter Amita.
Amita had won all her poule matches, then shrugged off the challenge of three fencers in the direct elimination rounds before she narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot, losing 13-15 to Russian Marta Martyanova in the quarter-finals.
It was her showing in that match that gave the teenager the most joy, according to her mother.
"Martyanova is a very strong opponent who is high in the senior rankings, and Amita was pleased that she managed to combine discipline with strategy, and the fact that she was not rattled despite facing senior fencers," said Berthier.
"She has shown that she is inching closer to (matching) big opponents in fencing."
The 19-year-old Martyanova is 12th in the senior world rankings.
Amita's ranking milestone, which comes just two months after she became the first Singaporean fencer to win a Junior World Cup title, has given more hope to the fencing fraternity that Singaporeans can take on the best in the world.
Then ranked 13th, she defeated Canada's Naomi Moindrot-Zilliox 15-9 to win December's Havana Junior World Cup and move up to fifth in the junior rankings.
"We're delighted for Amita and her continual progress on the world stage," said Fencing Singapore president Juliana Seow.
"This news is a timely boost to our fencers heading for the Asian and World Junior Fencing Championships, as it shows Singapore fencers can achieve at the highest level with hard work and perseverance."
Amita, who was The Straits Times Star of the Month for December, will head to Dubai for the Asian and World Junior Fencing Championships from Feb 24 to March 4 that will feature more than 700 fencers from 27 Asian countries in both junior and cadet events.
"It is an important competition which pits our fencers against the best from the region. We're confident that our athletes can acquit themselves well at this level of competition as they have done in past years," added Seow.
At last year's edition in Korat, Thailand, Esther Lai won Singapore's first-ever gold medal in the women's junior epee (Under-20) category. Amita achieved a top-16 finish in the foil event and is aiming to do better in Dubai.
"My next focus is the Asian Juniors where I hope to go deep into the competition," she said.
"I will do my best in Dubai and also help Singapore to a team medal if possible."