Following her SEA Games breakthrough where she won gold on her Games debut, fencer Amita Berthier's star continues to rise with a runner-up finish yesterday at the Guatemala leg of the Junior World Cup.
It was Singapore's first individual medal at the eight-stop competition, and the result means the 16-year-old is projected to reach her - and the country's - highest junior world ranking of 12.
Amita, who trains in Boston with German Olympic medallist Ralf Bissdorf at Marx Fencing Academy, won all her six poules matches and stormed into the foil final in Guatemala City before she lost 11-15 to Lydia Casillas of Mexico.
The teenager admitted she had been "a bit more nervous" prior to facing her 19-year-old opponent. Casillas had defeated Amita at the same competition last year, where the latter finished sixth.
Amita, who competed on the cadet (Under-17) circuit up until April, told The Straits Times that the match was a tricky one, but she was pleased with her overall performance.
She said: "(This result) means a lot to me because I've never won a medal at the Junior World Cup stage before and this is my first year on the junior (U-20) circuit, so it's a definitely a milestone."
Fencing Singapore (FS) president Juliana Seow praised Amita for her swift progress this year and added: "As FS continuously improves our high-performance pathway with our affiliates, we believe that Amita and her peers will bring inspiration to the current and next generation of fencers."
Before her SEA Games victory in Kuala Lumpur in August - which took place about 18 months after her father died - Amita won a cadet bronze at the World Cadet and Junior Fencing Championships in April, becoming only the second Singaporean (after Lau Ywen) to win a medal at the marquee event.
Bissdorf, 46, acknowledged the "exceptional year" Amita has had, but added that the process of transitioning from the cadet to junior category takes time. He noted:"Our goal was to reach 15th in the junior world rankings and now she will be 12th, which we're happy with but we're not going to stop here - we'll see if we can get to No. 11 by the end of the season."
Amita competes in next month's Cuba leg of the Junior World Cup in La Havane. She said: "I'm going to continue working hard and not rest on my laurels. It's pretty cool to achieve what I have so far. This year has been good so I hope I can continue for the next few years."