No foil medals at world junior championship but no need to panic, says Singapore fencing coach

File photo of the Singapore's junior women's foil team competing in August 2018. The junior women's foil team finished sixth at the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championship on April 11, 2019 after losing 32-45 to South Korea in the quarter-final
File photo of the Singapore's junior women's foil team competing in August 2018. The junior women's foil team finished sixth at the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championship on April 11, 2019 after losing 32-45 to South Korea in the quarter-finals. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The women's junior foil team may not have retained their silver medal after finishing sixth in the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championship on Thursday (April 11), but national head coach Andrey Klyushin has vowed they will come back stronger next year andstressed there is no cause for concern.

The team comprising women's junior world No. 1 Amita Berthier, Maxine Wong, Denyse Chan and reserve Rachel Lim lost 32-45 to South Korea in the quarter-finals at the Arena Torun in Poland.

The junior men's foil team of Richard Teoh, Jonathan Lim, Kieren Lock and Maximus Tio meanwhile, achieved their best result when they finished eighth, a result which Klyushin hailed as a "big success" as the team comprised two cadet (Under-17) fencers (16-year-olds Jonathan and Maximus).

The junior category is an U-20 competition.

Noting that Denyse, 15, and Rachel, 16, are also still competing in the cadet category, Klyushin told The Straits Times: "We don't need to worry about anything - we have some young girls who are on the way (to the junior level) and we still have a good pathway right now."

Singapore have won medals at the world championships for the last three years. Lau Ywen captured the cadet sabre gold in 2016, Amita earned a cadet foil bronze in 2017, and the women's junior foil team clinched silver in Italy last year.

Tatiana Wong, who was part of the gold-winning team (together with Amita, Maxine and Denyse) at last month's Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships, did not compete in Polanddue to exams and Klyushin, 56, also revealed some of the fencers were battling illness.

He said: "We were not at 100 per cent for this tournament and that's no excuse, but sometimes these things happen. We understand how we can do better and that's the most important thing, and we can do better next year for sure because we will learn from this."

He previously coached in Denmark and his native Russia and was head coach of British Fencing for three years before joining the Singapore set-up in 2017.

He remains confident of being on the right track to qualifying a women's team for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, adding that part of that plan is to build a base of eight to 10 fencers at senior level.

For Amita, who was crowned Asian junior champion last month, there were plenty of lessons this past week.

"There are so many fencers who are about the same level in terms of technical ability but the stronger fencers win because mentally, they are right there. You've just got to be extremely strong mentally, fight hard, not give up and just try your best to kill everybody," she said.

"South Korea beat the top seed Italy (in the round of 16), so they're definitely strong competitors. Despite us losing I'm still proud of my team as we gave them a tough fight."

Amita, 18, next competes in the June 13-18 Asian Fencing Championships in Tokyo, where she is targeting a top 16 or top eight finish.

She added: "When I'm in the competition I do the best I can, I try to kill everybody and just go there and try to beat anyone in my path. Those are my expectations going in."