Fencers make breakthrough

Singapore's Amita Berthier goes on the offensive against Chinese Taipei's Yang Chin-man during their bout in their women's foil team quarter-final at the Jakarta Convention Centre yesterday.
Singapore's Amita Berthier goes on the offensive against Chinese Taipei's Yang Chin-man during their bout in their women's foil team quarter-final at the Jakarta Convention Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

S'pore women's joint-bronze with S. Korea is nation's first team medal in the sport at Asiad

The women's foil team quarter-final bout between Amita Berthier and Yang Chin-man was punctuated with yells as each fencer unleashed her emotions on the piste yesterday.

The difference, however, was that Berthier's roars were of triumph while her Chinese Taipei opponent's screams reflected frustration. With the Republic leading 8-6, the Singaporean scored 17 points and relinquished only two to carve out a 25-8 advantage that proved decisive.

Berthier and her team-mates Tatiana Wong and Maxine Wong eventually prevailed 45-19 to secure their semi-final spot, thereby guaranteeing a podium finish.

Said the 17-year-old Berthier, who wore headphones pumping rap music into her ears before each of her bouts: "The score was pretty tight then and I felt I had a role to play in that situation.

"That match was the best for me to break Chinese Taipei... my coach told me if I could reach 25, which was the maximum point limit for that match, to just do it because then the gap will be much bigger and it'll be harder for them to come back, so that was our strategy."

The trio, plus reserve Melanie Huang, later lost 45-14 to China in the last four, settling for joint-bronze with South Korea at the Jakarta Convention Centre.

Not only was it Singapore's 200th medal at the quadrennial Games, it was also the nation's first fencing team medal at the Asiad - coming after the country's first medal in the sport in 2014 when Lim Wei Wen clinched bronze in the men's epee - and the significance was not lost on national foil coach Andrey Klyushin.

He believes his charges performed according to plan, noting it is the first step to try and qualify a fencing team for the Olympics.

"It's still a little bit difficult for such a young team to perform again (within such a short time) after one good performance," he said.

"(The Asian Games) are very important, you can see very strong teams like Japan, Korea, China and Hong Kong here - I think this medal (allows) us to be optimistic for the future."

Against the Chinese, who went on to lose 35-34 to Japan in the final, the Singapore team were outclassed but drew positives from their performances.

They were tied 6-6 with China early on in the tie before their opponents surged ahead.

The Chinese line-up, which included individual foil silver medallist Fu Yiting, are all in the top 50 of the senior world rankings while 17-year-old Maxine's senior ranking of 114 is the highest among the Singapore team.

Said 19-year-old Tatiana: "They put in way more training hours than we do because we all have school and some of them are full-time fencers. They compete professionally and have way more experience competing overseas (in events) like World Cups."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2018, with the headline 'Fencers make breakthrough'. Print Edition | Subscribe