SEA Games: No hard feelings as Amita Berthier defeats room-mate Maxine Wong

Amita Berthier (left) en route to defeating teammate Maxine Wong in the women's foil final yesterday to retain her gold. After receiving treatment for an ankle injury, she recovered from 10-9 down to win 15-10. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Amita Berthier (left) en route to defeating teammate Maxine Wong in the women's foil final yesterday to retain her gold. After receiving treatment for an ankle injury, she recovered from 10-9 down to win 15-10. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Under a Google search of "Amita Berthier competing", the first image of the fencer is one from the 2017 SEA Games - mask in one hand, foil in the other, and a roar emitting from her throat.

Yesterday, as she retained her women's foil title at the World Trade Centre in Manila, there was no such display of unbridled emotion for two reasons.

She was in pain, and she was respectful of Maxine Wong, her opponent, compatriot and room-mate.

Berthier, whose celebration was limited to just one silent fist pump during her 15-10 win, sprained her left ankle while warming up for the day's bouts. She then landed wrongly in the final.

She said: "I had no energy to really scream, and also it's not the nicest thing to do, shouting at every point against your own teammate."

Wong, 18, started well to go 3-1 up and kept her lead as Berthier struggled and called for the doctor while trailing 10-9.

But she recovered to take the next six points and clinch the gold.

Clive Leu won Singapore's third fencing medal of the day with his joint bronze in the men's sabre.

Of her comeback, Berthier, who turns 19 on Dec 15, said: "Mentally, I was like okay, since I can't do my full lunge and my attack is the best part of my fencing, I need to trust my defence and find ways to score points and just stay calm.

"In the beginning, I should have taken my time to set up the right timing for an attack."

Both medallists, who will compete in the team event on Friday, won all their bouts in their pools to progress to the elimination rounds. They exchanged high fives in the call room before each bout and did the same before the final.

The subject of an all-Singaporean final did not come up in their conversations though both had hoped they would meet there, said Berthier, who added: "We were just both very supportive of each other throughout the day."

For Games debutante Wong, the final was "like another bout".

"Of course I was nervous, but I just told myself to be calm," she said.

"After (the 10-9 lead)... my endurance kind of ran out. We've fenced each other many times, we know each other's mistakes and tactics and I guess that's both the advantage and disadvantage.

"As her teammate, I wish (her injury) hadn't happened because it would've been good to have a full match where both of us were fine but, to respect her as a competitor, I still gave my best."

She laughed when asked what the pair would talk about when they returned to their room.

"Don't ask me that," she said. "I think it'll be okay."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'No hard feelings as Berthier defeats room-mate Wong'. Print Edition | Subscribe