Morale-boosting victory

Above, from left: Viacheslav Bobok (foil national partner coach), Tatiana Wong, Denyse Chan, national foil and head coach Andrey Klyushin, Maxine Wong and Amita Berthier are all smiles at the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Jordan. Le
Maxine taking on China's Fu Yiting during Singapore's 45-14 loss in the women's foil team semi-finals at the Asian Games in Jakarta last August.LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO
Above, from left: Viacheslav Bobok (foil national partner coach), Tatiana Wong, Denyse Chan, national foil and head coach Andrey Klyushin, Maxine Wong and Amita Berthier are all smiles at the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Jordan. Le
Above, from left: Viacheslav Bobok (foil national partner coach), Tatiana Wong, Denyse Chan, national foil and head coach Andrey Klyushin, Maxine Wong and Amita Berthier are all smiles at the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Jordan.PHOTO: FENCING SINGAPORE

Women's foil junior quartet show great focus and fight to upset Japan 42-38 for Asian gold

The odds were stacked against Singapore's women's foil team in the junior (Under-20) final of the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday night.

The second-seeded quartet comprising Amita Berthier, Maxine Wong, Denyse Chan and Tatiana Wong were not given much of a chance against top seeds and defending champions Japan.

After all, Maxine and Denyse were part of the Singapore team, including Tan Jia Lin and Rachel Lim, who lost 45-18 to Japan in the cadet (U-17) final at last year's championships in Dubai.

But, armed with the perfect game plan and never-say-die attitude on Wednesday, the underdogs stunned Japan 42-38 to clinch a first-ever gold for Singapore.

US-based Berthier, who studies at the University of Notre Dame, had won the junior foil individual title on Sunday. Singapore finished the competition with two golds, one silver and two bronzes.

"This was a great performance from the girls, " said national foil coach Andrey Klyushin.

"We created a winning tactic with Slava (foil national partner coach Viacheslav Bobok) and the girls followed it.

TRUE TEAM EFFORT

We have Amita who can score many points in her bouts so we told Denyse not to rush and fence more defensively and Maxine to put more pressure on her opponents.

ANDREY KLYUSHIN, national foil coach, hailing the superb showing.

"We have Amita who can score many points in her bouts so we told Denyse not to rush and fence more defensively and Maxine to put more pressure on her opponents. That's why the girls fought well."

Singapore were given a bye in the round of 16 and beat Kazakhstan 45-16 in the last eight. In the semi-finals, the Republic came from behind to take out South Korea 45-32 while Japan beat Hong Kong 45-27.

In the final, Singapore had trailed 13-10 early on before Denyse, 15, narrowed the gap to 14-13 against Yukino Tosa in the fourth bout.

The turning point came in the fifth when Berthier scored nine touches against Mako Sakai to give Singapore the lead for the first time at 22-16. They then kept their nerves to score five points each in the last four bouts to seal the historic success.

Berthier, 18, said she and her teammates had only one aim entering the final - "to fight like never before for that gold medal".

She said: "This historic gold medal is a morale booster and can only lift the confidence level within the fencing fraternity in Singapore.

"The victory showed that we can achieve anything with single-minded focus as a team."

Tatiana added: "It was definitely a tough fight. The score was close throughout the whole final. But we wanted to hear Majulah Singapura on the podium."

The triumph follows the Asian Games joint-bronze showing of Berthier, Maxine, Tatiana and Melanie Huang last year.

Berthier, Maxine, Tatiana and Nicole Wong also won a silver at the World Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Verona, Italy, last April.

Yau Wee Sian, Fencing Singapore's vice-president for high performance, said: "This win indicates fencing in Singapore is heading in the right direction.

"It also demonstrates that our newly created Fencing Singapore Olympic Pathway Programme, supported by both the Singapore Sports Institute and the National Youth Sports Institute, which all four fencers are part of, is the right way forward for Singapore fencing on the Asian and world stage."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2019, with the headline 'Morale-boosting victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe