Fencing: Double joy as Amita Berthier wins silver medal, team title at NCAA c'ships

Amita Berthier won a silver medal in the women's foil at the National Collegiate Athletic Association fencing championships. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMITA BERTHIER

SINGAPORE - Already a veteran of two SEA Games and outings at the Asian and Olympic Games at just 21 years old, Amita Berthier went into this year's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) fencing championships with more nerves than ever.

As the team championship is determined by the number of bouts won throughout the competition, she was worried about contributing to her team.

But with the help of her sports psychologist, Berthier turned those nerves into motivation, winning a silver medal in the women's foil last Friday (March 25) to help the University of Notre Dame retain their championship title.

On Monday, Notre Dame won its 12th title with 189 points, ahead of Harvard and Columbia, both on 168 points.

Berthier said: "The reason I'm so hard on myself is because for this, it's about the number of bouts I win and I want to play my part. Sometimes your thoughts just take over, but my teammates were very supportive and said that no matter what happens, just go out there and fight. Last weekend, we were cheering our hearts out.

"What I did was I tried to stop thinking about the end result - I just wanted to have fun, put in the work, fence beautiful and it will work out."

Berthier claimed the silver after a 15-9 loss to Princeton University's Maia Weintraub for her third individual title at the NCAA championships since she enrolled at the University of Notre Dame in 2018.

In 2019, she became the first Singaporean to win an NCAA fencing title with a bronze in the women's foil, before picking up her second bronze last year.

She also notched another first for Singapore last year when Notre Dame won the NCAA team championship in fencing.

Berthier credited the support of her teammates and coaches for her and the team's successful campaign. She said: "I'm always grateful that my coaches decide to put me through - the women's foil is very hard to qualify for but the coaches took the chance on me. I'm glad I got to do them proud this year.

"We've also learned to appreciate that competitions are a blessing (amid the pandemic), which we don't take for granted. The team chemistry is amazing, we're all out there supporting each other."

Next up for Berthier is the World Cup in Belgrade, Serbia in April, before September's Asian Games in Hangzhou.

She said: "It (the NCAA) definitely gives me a boost of confidence, so I've just got to bring the same energy, it's a whole process."

Fencing Singapore vice-president David Chan said: "It is a huge achievement and we are extremely proud of her efforts. Amita's ability to challenge for the top position is proof of her potential and determination.

"Amita has made significant sacrifices for her sport, having stayed in the US, away from her family during the past two years of the pandemic. This has allowed her to maintain her training regime, and provide her exposure to high-level fencers. We hope that this result at the NCAAs will give her a confidence boost towards her future events this year."

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